In addition to signing running back James Robinson to the practice squad on Tuesday, the Green Bay Packers also announced that they added cornerback Anthony Johnson to the practice squad as well, and released cornerback Kiondre Thomas as the corresponding move.
Johnson went undrafted this past Spring out of Virginia and spent the summer with New Orleans. He is listed at 6’2” – 205 pounds and posted a Relative Athletic Score of 4.87 out of 10 during the pre-draft process.
During his college career, Johnson played 2,347 career snaps, according to PFF, most of which came lined up on the boundary. In 2022 specifically, he made 58 of his 65 tackle attempts and in coverage, allowed a completion rate of only 51 percent on 60 targets. He also came away with two interceptions and nine pass breakups. Johnson had PFF’s 15th best coverage grade out of all eligible cornerbacks during the 2022 season.
Johnson played 328 career special teams snaps, most of which came on the punt return and field goal block units.
For more on Johnson’s game, here is what Lance Zierlein of NFL.com had to say in his pre-draft scouting report:
"“Johnson’s physical traits and natural footwork in phasing routes in space is very appealing, but certain athletic limitations could cause evaluators to pump the brakes when grading him. He can block a release from press or squeeze route breaks from his pedal or a side shuffle but will struggle to keep pace with deep targets from man. Sticky hips make flat-footed transitions and open-field tackling challenging tasks for him, so teams will need to have a plan for optimizing his strengths while minimizing his limitations.”"
Thomas, meanwhile, had been on the Packers’ practice squad since 2022. During the preseason, he showcased that he was a well-rounded player with his ability in coverage, allowing just three receptions on 14 targets the last two preseasons, along with being a willing tackler and special teams contributor. This season, Thomas was elevated in Week 4 against Detroit and played 11 special teams snaps.
My guess is that with Thomas being in his third NFL season, and second on the Packers practice squad, Green Bay wanted to take a swing on Johnson’s upside as a rookie. GM Brian Gutekunst has shown over and over again throughout his tenure that he is more than willing to churn the bottom of the roster. Teams are always on the search for young players who possess a trait or skill set that could set them apart from the rest.
With Eric Stokes needing to be added to the 53-man roster sometime over the next week, the Packers have plenty of options at cornerback. Johnson’s role in 2023 will be as a developmental practice squad player.