What kind of role can we expect for Nazeeh Johnson coming off of injury?

Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans
Kansas City Chiefs v Houston Texans / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Roles within the Kansas City Chiefs secondary are set in certain spots. But in others, there are many names who will have an opportunity to solidify themselves. For Nazeeh Johnson, he will not only be looking to secure a role. He will be hoping to lock a spot down, while coming off of a major injury.

During training camp last year, Nazeeh Johnson suffered a torn ACL. This would wipe out his entire second season in the NFL. A seventh-round pick in 2022, Johnson played all of his snaps on special teams throughout his rookie season. According to Pro Football Reference, Johnson logged 96 special teams snaps in the 2022 campaign.

You may look at that and wonder why his role for 2024 is in question coming off of an injury. But during training camp last year, Johnson was receiving reps and opportunities for a starting role at defensive back. Via A-To-Z Sports, the defender was aligning opposite of L'Jarius Sneed and Trent McDuffie within the starting defense at last year's training camp. With that in mind, one would have to assume that the Chiefs still have plans for Johnson to factor into the starting secondary this year. At the very least, Kansas City will possibly look to have him battle for those starting reps, similar to last year's training camp.

Another Versatile Piece?

When the Kansas City Chiefs drafted Nazeeh Johnson in 2022, he was classified as a safety. But with him competing at cornerback last year, he may be asked to handle multiple roles on defense. The versatility appears to be a theme for the Chiefs in the secondary. Sneed and McDuffie each had a history of lining up outside or in the slot. We have seen some other depth safeties align both high or near the box.

If he does indeed handle multiple roles, Johnson could be asked to align as both a safety and a cornerback this upcoming season. Depending on the game plan, the matchup for the opponent and the pass catching room they are facing, Johnson could always alter between his original safety spot and a cornerback role. We also know that Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is not afraid to send any defensive back on a blitz. Perhaps, Johnson may be tasked with that part of the game, as well, in 2024. All in all, Johnson offers plenty of options for his usage entering the 2024 season.

What Made Johnson Stand Out At Marshall?

Coming out of Marshall, there were some classic traits that the Chiefs likely enjoyed from Nazeeh Johnson. Beyond his potential versatility, Johnson offered adequate speed. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.35 seconds prior to the draft at his pro day. For me personally, Johnson showcased intriguing ball skills and instincts against the pass. He tallied a total of 24 pass breakups and six interceptions throughout his college career for the Thundering Herd.

If those skill sets can continue to emerge in this year's training camp, Johnson will likely be able to get back to the position he was in on the roster prior to the devastating injury. His quickness mixed in with aforementioned ball skills can fit in seamlessly with a Chiefs defense that prioritizes man coverage. And it is not like Johnson is completely undersized, either. Listed at 5'10'' and 199 pounds, Johnson is capable of playing bigger than what his size may indicate. In my opinion, we saw that from him multiple times during his college career.

How Injury Timeline Could Impact Johnson And His Role

Obviously, coming off of a torn ACL is never easy, especially the following season. But most of all, defensive back may arguably be the toughest spot to make a return from that specific injury. Playing that position is already as challenging as ever in today's wide-open NFL.

Thankfully for Nazeeh Johnson, the amount of recovery time should allow for some sort of ease and comfort. It is not as if he tore the ACL in the middle of last season. Given how early the injury occurred last year, the runway to getting back has been built up tremendously for Johnson.

The defensive back sat down with Cole DeRuse on the How Bout Those Chiefs YouTube Channel. Johnson was able to provide an update on his recovery from the torn ACL.

"I'm feeling wonderful. Obviously, I did tear my ACL back in camp, but I'm at nine months now and I think I'm about 90 percent," Johnson said. "So they have me out there running, jumping, cutting, everything with the brakes on. I'm not medically cleared to do team work yet, 7-on-7, I'm not cleared to do that yet, but I'm doing everything else. I'm running, sprinting, decel, cutting, all that."

With that recovery timeline not being as rushed as it could have been, I would think that Johnson will eventually get the chance to return to the same competition that he saw last year in training camp. He has the chance to assume a role at cornerback, especially following the departure of Sneed via trade. And with how often Kansas City mixes and matches defensive backs, the role of Johnson could be an underrated piece to the defense's campaign in 2024.