Cornerback D.J. Johnson vying for time in Redskins’ secondary

This morning we took a look at rookie cornerback Richard Crawford, who is hoping to demonstrate the strides he has made in the last six weeks if he gets a chance to play Sunday, with cornerback Cedric Griffin suspended. But there’s a strong possibility that the Redskins could give many of those third cornerback snaps to fellow backup D.J. Johnson.

Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett indicated that he could use both players depending on the situation – similar to the way he has platooned DeJon Gomes, Reed Doughty and Jordan Pugh at strong safety.

Johnson is in his fourth NFL season, after brief stints with the Giants in 2009 and 2010, Tampa Bay in 2010, the Redskins late last season and the Colts’ practice squad this season. Johnson returned to the Redskins in October as a member of the practice squad, then was promoted to the 53-man roster on Nov. 6.

He has played primarily on special teams in the last three games, but took two defensive snaps Monday night against the Giants.

Now after a lengthy wait, Johnson will get to compete for a regular role on Washington’s defense.

“It’s what I’ve been waiting for, for four years: to get some meaningful playing time during the season. It means a lot. It’s me getting a chance to live my dream,” the Jackson State product said. “I’m a tall corner that can run. That’s what they’re going to pay me to do and that’s what I’m going to do.”

Having appeared in 13 games in his career, Johnson has the experience edge over Crawford, and he gives the Redskins more size at 6-foot-1, 191 pounds.

“I like D.J. because he’s long, he’s athletic,” Haslett said. “He hasn’t played a lot of football. He’s kind of bounced around a little bit, but I like his skills.”

Asked what Johnson could give the Redskins, coach Mike Shanahan said, “Any time you’ve got a guy with length, a guy that is taller and with longer arms, it’s a little bit tougher to throw that ball over the middle of the field. You have a little bit more room or a little bit more extension, which is obvious. It’s also nice on the outside. A lot of the time, the bigger guys don’t have the foot quickness or sometimes the speed or agility. But he has done a good job, so we’ll get a chance to evaluate him in a live situation.”

Griffin played on the outside whenever DeAngelo Hall shifted to the inside the cover slot receivers. Johnson likely would be used in that role, but said he feels comfortable covering the slot as well. He also doesn’t mind continuing his role on the punt coverage unit. He just wants to be on the field as much as possible.

“That’s the name of the game,” he said with a grin. “They tell me to go out there and cover 10 punts and then play 50 snaps? That’s what I’m going to do. It’s like the fourth preseason game for me, when I get all the reps. That’s how I’m going to look at it.”

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