Skip to main content

Saints' Juwan Johnson aiming to break into 'great' tier of TEs in 2023

If you're searching for a sleeper candidate to make a leap in 2023, I'd like to offer you New Orleans Saints tight end Juwan Johnson.

An undrafted free agent in 2020, Johnson transitioned from receiver to tight end, showing signs the arrow was pointing up last season. In 2022, Johnson generated 42 catches, 508 yards and seven touchdowns, tied for third-most among all tight ends.

During offseason work and camp, Johnson has reportedly been a favorite target of new quarterback Derek Carr. Given the TE's size, athleticism, run-after-catch ability and catch radius, Johnson has the skill set to break out in 2023.

"I've always seen myself being a good player," the tight end said, via the team's official website. "That's how I've always carried myself, going into high school and college, me being a good player but I know I always could be great. That's the tier I'm trying to break into, being great.

"I do a lot of things good, but I know there are improvements that I can make both receiving, pass blocking and just being a leader. Those are all things and they're very tangible, and I think if I stay consistent in what I'm doing -- guys gravitate to me just because of what I try to do consistently, not say one thing and talk out of the other side of my mouth. I just try to be who I am, and I think that gravitates on the field and off the field. So just keep doing that, and I think it's going to be good."

The connection with Carr got to the point during camp that beat writers were openly pondering whether the Saints were intentionally not targeting Johnson during practices to get others involved.

Johnson came on strong last season, with seven of his TDs coming in a seven-game stretch. The question is whether he'll see enough targets to really break out.

The Saints' plan to spread the ball around could curtail Johnson's upside in 2023 -- especially if wideout Michael Thomas remains healthy. However, the talent is there for Johnson to be a difference-maker.

The soon-to-be 27-year-old isn't fretting with individual results.

"Honestly, a breakout is whatever you make it," he said. "Everybody has their own sort of 'breakout,' what it means. I could say yes, or whatever, but at the end of the day, if I have one what does it matter if we don't win? Because at the end of the day, that's why we're here.

"That's why D.A. (head coach Dennis Allen) put this team together, that's why Derek is here, that's why Mike T. is back, so we can have sort of a breakout team, so we can win. So we can have another division title, so we can clinch that No. 1 seed, so we can win the Super Bowl.

"So I can say I want to have a breakout season. Who doesn't? At the end of the day, I'm tired of going home after the last game, watching teams that I know we beat, or we could have beaten, or we're better than who are in the playoffs."

Related Content