One of the hottest names from last year’s training camp was rookie Wide Receiver Jon’Vea Johnson. But a disappointing 2019 preseason, marked by dropped passes and then landing on injured reserve, has caused Johnson to fall off many fans’ radars. Can the undrafted prospect bounce back in 2020 and make the Dallas Cowboys’ roster?
The hype around Jon’Vea started almost immediately last year. During OTAs in late May, Johnson’s smooth route running and athleticism drew praise from Dallas’ previous WR Coach Sanjay Lal.
That performance carried over to training camp in July. By the time we reached the first preseason game, Johnson had become an Oxnard darling and was being included on almost every projection for the Cowboys’ 53-man roster.
Unfortunately, that’s when the good times stopped rolling. Johnson’s problems with dropped passes started immediately and became his most memorable contribution to the Cowboys’ preseason efforts.
That’s preseason in a nutshell. Jon’Vea Johnson has been shining since May, buuuuut you gotta take it to the game. His drop takes the offense off the field.
After those struggles it was doubtful that Johnson would have made the Cowboys’ 2019 roster. But a shoulder injury in the preseason finale ended the question as Dallas put the WR prospect on injured reserve.
Johnson is set to return in 2020 as one of several prospects vying for the bottom half of the Cowboys’ receiver depth chart. If he can get back to the player we heard about in camps and practices last year, how much opportunity does he have?
Don’t let this next statement shock you; the Cowboys’ top three receivers in 2020 will be Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 1st-Round pick Ceedee Lamb.
Beyond that trio is a fairly wide-open field of contenders. Ventell Bryant, Devin Smith, and Cedrick Wilson are the holdovers from last year’s roster. The Cowboys will also be getting back Noah Brown, who spent last year on PUP and IR.
Also in the mix is another practice squad WR from last year, Tevin Jones. He and Jon’Vea will be joined by a new crop of undrafted rookie hopefuls; Stephen Guidry, Aaron Parker, and Kendrick Rodgers.
Perhaps the biggest x-factor of all here are changes in the coaching staff. With offensive-minded Mike McCarthy as the new head coach and a new WR Coach in Adam Henry, any receiver who isn’t Cooper, Gallup, or Lamb has no guarantees.
One factor that could be vital to Johnson making the team this year is if he can contribute on special teams. Despite his 4.38 speed, Jon’Vea was not a return man in college and may not be valuable enough without that added skill.
Tavon Austin is still a free agent and a reunion with the Cowboys, especially with his former Rams coach John Fassel, isn’t out of the question. Fassel has already brought over one of his former Rams players in Kicker Greg Zuerlein.
At this point, though, it appears Dallas is going to see what they have in their younger players. We saw Cedrick Wilson used sparingly on some returns last year and they could also see if RB Tony Pollard can handle punt duties on top of kickoffs.
However, especially after both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup missed some time last year, how these reserves perform on offense is still the key. Unless you’re a special teams legend like Dwayne Harris, the Cowboys expect their depth players to wear multiple hats.
If Jon’Vea Johnson can restore his reputation and carry it into the 2020 preseason games then he could make it. He has the athleticism to play out of the slot or outside; valuable versatility if needed in a game.
It’s a fresh start for many in the Cowboys organization this year. Johnson made a great first impression in 2019 but couldn’t sustain it. Hopefully it goes better for him with this second chance.