John Johnson III wants to 'perfect' any and all of his roles

Johnson placed emphasis on perfecting his role as a vocal safety after the defense’s Week 5 performance

John Johnson III was frustrated Sunday as he watched the Chargers create big play after big play against the Browns defense.

Johnson, a fifth-year safety in his first season in Cleveland, was mostly mad because he was on the field and failed to do more to stop those plays, such as Mike Williams' 72-yard touchdown catch where he was uncovered by anyone in the Browns backfield — or the 42-yard touchdown Williams made while also uncovered later in the game.

Those plays, which resulted in the Browns' 47-42 loss, will frustrate any defensive back, but Johnson felt even more emotion as the Browns' "green sticker" defender. He was wearing the earpiece connected to the headset of defensive coordinator Joe Woods and was responsible for delivering play calls and aligning everyone in the defense.

When the Browns had a busted coverage, Johnson felt responsible.

"I was upset. I was hot," he said Thursday, "but it's one of those things as a DB where you have to think about the next play. You've got to move on real fast."

That's the mentality Johnson is taking into Week 6, where he'll look to command the defense for a bounce-back game and possibly relay play calls again. Johnson has plenty of experience with it — he held the role with the Los Angeles Rams last season — and has spent several hours this week reviewing the film so the same mistakes aren't made for a second straight week.

"They're easy fixes," he said. "They were simple busts where we weren't paying attention. It's easy to fix, and we've moved on from it. We're going to get ready for Arizona."

Check out exclusive photos of the Browns preparing for their game against the Arizona Cardinals

The challenges against the Cardinals won't be any easier for Johnson and the defense compared to last week.

Kyler Murray has Arizona's offense soaring with his growth as a high-level passer. He's sixth in the league with 1,512 passing yards and has benefitted from having three-time All Pro WR DeAndre Hopkins, seven-time Pro Bowler A.J. Green and promising second-round rookie Rondale Moore in the same room. 

The Cardinals have thrived off explosive plays, so the Browns simply can't afford to repeat any of the defensive mistakes that cost them in Week 5. Johnson, who played against Murray and the Cardinals twice a year as an interdivisional opponent when he was with the Rams, said the Browns have put an emphasis on better coverage against deep balls.

"If you're deep, you've got to stay deep," Johnson said. "If you're short, you can try to make a play on him, but it's one of those weeks where you have to cover your man twice. The play is never over until the whistle blows."

Johnson and other Browns players and coaches said the issues from the defense last week didn't have to do with the fact that it was his first game with the green sticker since joining the Browns. Johnson was handed those duties from the linebackers position, which lost its top man in Anthony Walker Jr. for three games. 

Walker, who previously relayed play calls, returned for the game last week but was eased into action — he only played in 73 percent of the snaps after playing in 95 percent of them in Week 1. The Browns are eager to return Walker back into his normal full-time role but are confident Johnson can handle the added responsibility of relaying play calls for as long as he's needed to.

"I think (the job) is just an extension of Joe from the sideline," Johnson said. "A lot of different guys can do it. I just try to put my guys at ease and get the call in as fast as I can. I've done it in the past. I don't think it's an obstacle. It's for whatever week is best, and whoever is going to call it is going to call it."

Woods didn't confirm Johnson as the defender with the green sticker this week but commended Johnson for handling the job last week while still putting himself in his correct assignments.

"For him to call it, get down, get back out and they are on the ball, he did a great job during the week, and in the game, he handled it very well," Woods said. "It should be easier moving forward … We're going to keep evaluating it and see where guys are. Right now, we will probably keep the dot on him."

Whether he has the dot or not, Johnson still plans on amplifying his voice and positioning his teammates. That was something he did even before he was assigned the official role as play-call relay man.

"Everybody has a role on the team, and I want to be great at mine," Johnson said. "I want to be great at mine and perfect it, and there's definitely opportunities to be made playing the position."

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