Why Stevie Johnson Is the Perfect Fit for the San Francisco 49ers
Why is that? I'll give you a hint, he has the same first name as the legendary Stevie Wonder.
Well, general manager Trent Baalke worked his magic once again. After acquiring Anquan Boldin from the Baltimore Ravens last season for a No. 2 pencil and a pack of gum, Baalke decided to try his luck again this offseason.
The current victim? None other than the Buffalo Bills.
All the criticism about the 49ers' patient approach in the first round must have lit a fire in Baalke, because the next day, he shifted on the offense. Prior to the start of the second round, the 49ers acquisition of Stevie Johnson was just the first step.
Baalke went on to draft two key future pieces on offense. In drafting running back Carlos Hyde and receiver Bruce Ellington, Baalke was adamant about surrounding his offense with major weapons.
However, his biggest move was the acquisition of Stevie Johnson. Here are four reasons why Johnson is a perfect fit for Jim Harbaugh and his 49ers.
For two possession receivers like Michael Crabtree and Anquan Boldin, the best complement is obviously speed. Johnson isn't exactly burning up track fields, so why label him a great complement?
The answer is pretty simple.
While not fast, Johnson stretches the field in his own way. His quickness and shiftiness make him an ideal fit in the slot.
Now, Michael Crabtree also brings those same qualities to the table, but Johnson is far better on option routes. On tape, Johnson's ability on option routes gives him such a significant edge against opposing corners in the slot.
Not to mention his exceptional route-running ability. Before you know it, Johnson is two or three steps ahead of opposing corners on any given route.
The 49ers love to run out of "12" personnel (two tight ends, one wide receiver), but with the addition of Johnson, we could see offensive coordinator Greg Roman throw out more "11" personnel (one tight end, three wide receiver) looks this season.
Again, the addition of Johnson gives quarterback Colin Kaepernick four options on any given play. The great thing with Johnson is his ability to play multiple receiver positions.
Johnson can line up outside the numbers, in the slot and at flanker. Currently, he's at his best in the slot against smaller corners. Johnson is listed at 6'2''.
While Crabtree is strictly regulated to the outside, both Boldin and Johnson can play outside and in the slot. This should help Roman create mismatches against opposing defenses.
Success Against Press-Man Coverage
Outside of Johnson's versatility, his ability against press coverage should excite legions of 49ers fans. Against the NFC West, specifically the Seattle Seahawks and outspoken cornerback Richard Sherman, Johnson will prove his worth almost immediately.
As we all know, the Seahawks defense have made a name for themselves with their physical approach to press coverage on the outside.
In order to defeat the Seahawks, your game plan starts here.
Luckily for 49ers fans, Johnson has some valuable experience against Sherman and the Seahawks defense. In fact, Johnson caught eight balls for 115 receiving yards and a touchdown against the Seahawks just last season. The Bills lost that game, 50-17.
Can we expect that type of performance this season? With his penchant for getting hurt, I wouldn't bet my house on it. Nevertheless, his success against one of the top secondaries in football is an encouraging sign we shouldn't ignore.
Now, Johnson isn't your picture perfect definition of a veteran leader. Looking at professionals like Justin Smith and Anquan Boldin, I wouldn't put Johnson anywhere near either of those veterans when it comes to leadership.
However, I still think Johnson will bring something to this area. Like Randy Moss, Johnson is a very smart and likable locker room presence.
Yes, he does have the occasional bonehead play or two, but all in all, Johnson was a very respected leader in the Bills locker room. His former general manager, Doug Whaley, is in agreement.
Outside of Boldin, Crabtree and special teamer Kassim Osgood, the 49ers receivers are all relatively young. Throwing in a trusted veteran like Johnson could help young receivers like Quinton Patton and Bruce Ellington assimilate at their own pace.