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49ers 90-in-90: Dontae Johnson

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Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is cornerback Dontae Johnson.

I don’t want to start this with negativity and ragging on Dontae Johnson, so let’s start it with a highlight:

That’s close to half of the good Dontae Johnson plays. Now let’s talk about the guy. He’s back. The 49ers waived Pita Taumoepenu to make room and now Johnson is returning for training camp. As far as Taumoepenu is concerned, man that’s got to hurt. A Shanahan draft pick waived for a Balke pick with a consensus of not being very good.

So what has Johnson been up to? Well the 49ers didn’t pick him up in 2018 when he entered free agency, so he bounced around not one, not two, but four different teams before returning to the 49ers; The Seattle Seahawks, the Buffalo Bills, The Arizona Cardinals and the Kansas City Chiefs. The Seahawks was the high profile signing, as he was seen as maybe starting for 2018. That never happened after his groin injury put him on IR. He saw action with the Bills, but compiled no stats. The Cardinals and Chiefs were mere pit stops, with the Chiefs in particular coming after the season concluded.

Four teams. Johnson has had his chances to prove he’s a starter and besides his two pick sixes, he doesn’t have much to show for them. Could he be depth or a training camp body? I just say look at that cornerback unit, look at the timing, and forget he used to be a 49er, remember he’s been through four teams in little under a year.

Basic Info:

Age: 27
Experience: Sixth season
Height: 6’2
Weight 200 lbs

Cap Status:

Signed a one year deal with a cap hit of$645,000. Not near the $1,300,000 deal he got with Seattle.

Why he might improve:

Johnson’s biggest two biggest issues have been biting on his first instinct and allowing receivers into the inside field. He has struggled with this since he was scouted as a college player. Given that besides one game, he was out of football for 2018, we can’t know if he improved. While in San Francisco, his time has been keeping receivers near the sidelines and despite a few completions he hasn’t been horrid in that regard. He needs to continue to work on following receivers and not letting them get by him. With all jokes aside, he has stopped a big play or two with a swat, but nothing consistent or enough for us to call him “good.”

Why he might regress:

Back in 2014 when that pick six happened, there was a lot of optimism from Johnson’s small showing, and the result was him not being a clear-cut starter in 2015. He can’t be consistent in man coverage and hasn’t improved his press technique much as time went on. Johnson has possessed some great physical traits coming out of college, but he’s a better athlete than a football player. You don’t want that.

To be fair, Johnson was a victim of the systematic merry-go-round the 49ers had with their coaching staff and front office until Kyle Shanahan arrived. But again, four teams in a year.

Odds of making the roster:

Two years ago, Johnson had a situation where he’d either be a starter or off the roster completely. Today, he’s just surrounded by Kyle Shanahan draft picks that are where he was a few years back—younger and with potential not yet realized. X-factors if you will. We know what we are getting out of Johnson. The 49ers cornerback group has a chance to be quite good with Jason Verrett and Richard Sherman leading the charge, and youngsters behind them.

The only charge Johnson has is starting in a Week 4 preseason game. For those of you Johnson supporters, I have bad news: unless he’s trained under 500 times normal gravity or on King Kai’s planet, it’s doubtful he’ll be in San Francisco long.