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Versatility Helps Mike Johnson On The Offensive Line


Training camp is hard enough on a young player, but Mike Johnson is taking on a few extra challenges in addition to learning new protection schemes inside of Dirk Koetter's offense.

Drafted as a guard in 2010, Johnson has been seeing time at right tackle lately and is working to make the adjustment in practice.

"I did it a little during OTAs, but I've kind of moved over a little bit more during camp," Johnson said. "It's been an adjustment and I'm trying to learn the ins and outs of a different position. You kind of get set with certain things over at guard. On the outside, you have to remind yourself of the small things. It's going decent so far, I've just got to keep working every day."

While a competition is looming at right guard between at least three players, Johnson is settling in behind Tyson Clabo, the team's starter at right tackle. For a player that earned two All-American honors at Alabama playing mostly at guard, there's been some learning on the job. Fortunately, Johnson filled in as a tackle some while in college, but at the highest level, the skill techniques are even more different.

"Punch timing, moving your feet, being able to run the hoop around the quarterback (are some of the differences)," Johnson said. "It's some stuff you don't have to deal with at guard. You take on the bullrush and move side to side. You don't really have that on the outside so much. You have to learn to turn your hips and get your hands out early."

Recently, head coach Mike Smith said the limited numbers in addition to the starting five players the Falcons can carry at offensive line means they want players that can do exactly what Johnson is doing. Smith said he wanted tackles that could play guard and guards that could play center. Johnson is living the cross-training philosophies of Smith and he thinks his chances are improved by it.

"I think it's huge," he said. "Obviously, there are some set positions on the offensive line and there are some that aren't. The more that I can work on and play in games and get on film to show what I can do, the better chance that I have of making the team."

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