He made possibly the biggest play in one of the most memorable recent seasons in Buffalo Bills history. Taron Johnson produced the 101-yard pick-six against the Ravens to help the Bills get to the AFC Championship Game in 2020.
Just two games into his fourth NFL season, Johnson already feels like he's playing faster and with a better understanding of the defense than any other time in his career.
"I feel comfortable," Johnson said. "I do feel like it's been kind of trending in this direction. I just feel good, confident, and just playing hard and the game is slowing down for me a little bit. So, just want to keep that same attitude same focus."
That focus for Johnson has caught the eye of many of his teammates to start the 2021 campaign. Through two weeks, Johnson has racked up 11 total tackles, one tackle for loss, one QB hit, four passes defensed, a forced fumble, and had a sack on the first defensive play against Miami. After practice, Johnson walked through the sack that sparked the defensive shutout win in Miami.
"We had a call called and I wasn't originally supposed to blitz but they came out in the formation that dictated us to change the call," Johnson said. "So, it ended up being me on the blitz and I came free. Honestly, I didn't even know I had a sack, because as I was looking down to tackle him, he pump-faked, and I thought he threw the ball, so I thought it was kind of weird because I didn't think I sacked him."
After the Miami game, the media couldn't even get the question out about Johnson before teammates Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde interrupted and called him a dawg. After practice on Thursday, Hyde followed that up with more comments about the key piece of the Bills defense.
"I love that dude," Hyde said quietly so Johnson didn't hear him. "Man, he just does everything for our defense. You've got to have a nickel that's a dawg, and that's him. He's been showing it the last couple of years. Just a great kid, a great guy, and has come a long way. He has a growth mentality on the football field and even off, just becoming a man. It's so cool to see a young guy like that coming along. He's been making a lot of plays in this league for a long time."
Throughout his career, Johnson has tried to model his game after a number of high-caliber level defensive backs. Players like Marlon Humphrey, Tyrann Mathieu and Jalen Ramsey have all influenced Johnson in some way. Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier sees a lot of himself in Johnson and is glad Johnson is looking to other Pro Bowl defensive backs to see how they work and improve in this league.
"To Taron's credit, he's worked extremely hard to get a good grasp of the defense to the point where now he's like a coach on the field," Frazier said. "And Jimmy Salgado, who works with our nickels has done a terrific job of spending time with him both at practice, in the classroom, pre-practice. So that's helped as well.
At this point in Johnson's career, Frazier believes that the sky is the limit for the potential and upside that the nickel corner has.
"But lately he's been able to stay on the field and he's developed into a really, really good player, one best slot corners in the National Football League," Frazier said. "We are very fortunate to watch his development and see his maturation over this period."