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Don't Sleep on Dontae Johnson in 49ers Cornerback Competition

Posted Jun 29, 2017

Who will start opposite Rashard Robinson in 2017? Don't forget about fourth-year corner Dontae Johnson.


Dontae Johnson lined up across from Pierre Garçon during the last practice of minicamp. The 1-on-1 matchup came inside the red zone. Garçon, as he will be so often in 2017, was Brian Hoyer’s No. 1 option on this particular rep.

As Garçon took off, Johnson kept up stride for stride, keeping the receiver from creating any separation. Hoyer rolled right to buy time, but Johnson’s coverage was relentless. The quarterback ultimately had to safely sail the ball out of the end zone to avoid a sack or a turnover.

Johnson let out a yell in celebration and accepted a few congratulatory daps from his teammates.

“That was a heat of the moment type thing,” Johnson smiled. “I can’t really explain it. I was real pumped up.”

The outward display was a rare sight from the cornerback, who usually keeps his emotions to himself. His demeanor is comparable to that of a poker player, and by the sound of it, that’s been the case for quite some time.

Johnson’s high school coach taught him that showboating wasn’t a substitute for hard work. The corner took the message to heart.

“Get your job done and do it with the least amount of noise,” Johnson explained his approach to the game. “People will recognize your game eventually.

“I’m not going to be someone I’m not. I’m a blue collar-type of guy and that’s what I’m going to stick to. That’s what I know best.”

But don’t mistake Johnson’s quiet disposition for a lack of confidence. The North Carolina State product is entering his fourth NFL season after being taken by the 49ers in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.

Johnson’s playing time varied over his first three years in San Francisco, but he showed well during the offseason program and has a prime opportunity to earn a starting role in 2017. He will likely compete with Keith Reaser for the job opposite Rashard Robinson.

“I’m building my confidence, and I know that I can do this,” Johnson said. “I can come out here and compete at a high level and do it consistently.

“I think the offseason went well. I’m just trying to get acclimated to this new scheme and build off of it.”

Johnson decided to stick around during summer break to continue training at 49ers HQ. His “staycation” features daily workouts with strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright.

Starting on July 27 when players report for training camp, Johnson will once again put his head down and get to work. He’s well aware of the opportunity at stake. If Johnson is to win a starting job in August, he’s sure to do it without pounding his chest along the way.

He’ll continue to do it his way.

“All I can do is control what I can control,” Johnson said. “What I can control is my effort that I put forward every day. I made that a big point of emphasis this year. I’m locked in and keyed in on whatever I have to do. I’m playing technique sound and getting my job done.”


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