Johnson’s improvement at tight end noticeable for Saints

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, November 15, 2022

By John DeShazier

The New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints’ record, 3-7, tells the story: The team is having all sorts of difficulty winning games in 2022. That doesn’t mean that, even in defeat – like Sunday’s 20-10 loss to the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh – there aren’t noteworthy performances.

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OFFENSE: Without much hoopla, tight end Juwan Johnson has ascended to the top of the list for touchdown receptions this season with four, adding a 15-yard scoring catch Sunday against the Steelers. The three-year veteran has worked his way into becoming a reliable option for the Saints; against Pittsburgh, he led the team in receptions (five), receiving yards (44) and targets (seven). Johnson’s a former wide receiver, so he understands how to get open and he often proves to be a matchup issue for opposing defenses. He already has single-season career highs for receptions, receiving yards and touchdowns.

DEFENSE: If the Saints’ defense is going to be without linebacker Pete Werner for an extended period of time, it seems that Kaden Elliss is capable of being a more than adequate fill-in. He had a sack against the Ravens on Monday night, and added a sack, forced fumble, quarterback hit, tackle for loss and seven tackles against the Steelers. Elliss played a lot of defensive end in college, so he knows how to get to the quarterback. As his other skills have developed, he has become a more well-rounded linebacker (he defended well on a pass attempt for running back Najee Harris out of the backfield).

SPECIAL TEAMS: Blake Gillikin had a “Gillikin” type of game against the Steelers – five punts for an 51.8-yard average. Better, two of them were downed inside the 20-yard line, the best being the one that kicked out of bounds at the 2, with a 58-yard net. Gillikin has had a couple of games this season that were uncharacteristic of him, but Sunday’s showing was a good reminder of how effective he can be and how much of an asset he can be.