D.J. Johnson gains first Carolina Panthers sack
While the Carolina Panthers are set to get a couple of key contributors back into the fold this weekend, they sent three more players to injured/reserve following the bye week. Perhaps the most significant was Yetur Gross-Matos, who has demonstrated impressive development when all hope seemed lost this season.
This is yet another blow to a pass-rushing unit lacking any sort of productivity aside from Brian Burns. Veteran edge presence Justin Houston could be in line for more work despite not showing much through six weeks, but this might also be a good time to get rookie D.J. Johnson more involved if he's ready.
The Panthers traded up to acquire Johnson in the third round, which was a head-scratcher for almost everybody. After all, he was a six-year college player with one year of experience on defense, with many analysts projecting the Oregon product as a Day 3 selection at best to further raise bemusement.
Johnson's been seldom seen up to now. He's gradually being introduced into the rotation, but not having Gross-Matos available opens the door if the coaching staff genuinely feels like the development project won't be overawed by the occasion.
Nobody is expecting much from Johnson, which might make him a surprise the Houston Texans don't see coming. If he can somehow notch his first professional sack, it'll do his confidence a world of good moving forward.
What better way to celebrate his 25th birthday?