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Five things to know about OL coach Bobby Johnson

New York Giants offensive line coach Bobby Johnson during minicamp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday April 21,2022 in East Rutherford, NJ (Evan Pinkus via AP)
New York Giants offensive line coach Bobby Johnson during minicamp at the Quest Diagnostics Training Center on Thursday April 21,2022 in East Rutherford, NJ (Evan Pinkus via AP)

The Washington Commanders have finalized their coaching staff for the 2024 season, and is going to spend the next few weeks providing an inside look at their backgrounds and what they can add to the team.

Next up is offensive line coach Bobby Johnson.

1. He was a standout offensive lineman in high school and college.

Johnson is a native of Ohio and played high school football and participated on the track team at Akron Hoban High School. Johnson had an outstanding career for the Knights and was named Ohio's UPI Division III Lineman of the Year in 1991.

Johnson received a slew of other accolades in high school, earning First Team All-Ohio, First Team all-district, All-Summit County and all-scholastic honors. That led him to enrolling at the University of Miami (OH), where he earned a degree in health appraisal and sports organization.

Johnson continued his playing career with the RedHawks and was a three-year starter. In addition to helping the team finish with winning records during his sophomore and senior seasons, Johnson was part of the offensive line that blocked for running back Deland McCullough, who rushed for three 1,000-yard seasons and 36 touchdowns. McCullough ended his career holding program and conference records for career rushing yards and attempts.

2. Miami (OH) had a dominant run game with him leading the offensive line.

Johnson got into coaching immediately after graduation, earning a job as a grab assistant with Akron. That led him back to Miami (OH) for a stint as their tight ends and offensive line coach. In the time that Johnson was part of the staff, the RedHawks had one of the best running games in the conference.

Johnson helped the RedHawks to six straight winning seasons, including a 13-1 finish in 2003. After losing to Iowa in Week 1, the RedHawks went on a 13-game win streak that was highlighted by a 49-28 win over Louisville in the GMAC Bowl. They scored at least 45 points in their last five games that season.

Miami (OH) had a good track record against opponents when it leaned on the running game with a record of 36-5 when outrushing opponents. In 2004, Johnson's final season with the team, the RedHawks averaged 125.2 yards per game on the way to a 9-5 record.

Johnson also coached multiple players who made the leap to the NFL. Jacob Bell, a fifth-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2004, played eight years with 100 starts, a sixth-round pick by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2001, spent time with Washington and appeared in 14 games during the 2002 season; Matt Brandt was signed by the Detroit Lions; and Ben Herrell played for the Carolina Panthers in 2004.

3. He helped elevate Indiana's offensive line.

After spending six seasons with his alma mater, Johnson was on the move again, this time heading to Indiana as their offensive line coach. Just as he did in Ohio, Johnson helped build an impressive offensive line unit that earned a bevy of praise in the Big Ten.

Indiana's offenses averaged 141.3 rushing yards per game with Johnson on the staff. The Hoosiers rushed for at least 2,000 yards in back-to-back seasons in 2007 and 2008 -- a feat that was previously accomplished in 2000 and 2001 -- and scored 19 rushing touchdowns in 2008. That year was highlighted by four games with at least 250 rushing yards, including 297 against Western Kentucky.

The Hoosiers were also  impressive in pass protection. They allowed the second fewest sacks in the Bit Ten in 2009, surrendering just one sack per 27.5 dropbacks.

Two-time Pro Bowler and second-round pick Rodger Saffold III was one of the most successful offensive linemen that came from the Johnson talent pool. He earned Second Team All-Big Ten honors in 2009, making him the first Indiana offensive lineman to receive the award since Enoch Deman in 2002.

Saffold has played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Rams, Titans and Bills. He's appeared in 176 games with 173 starts and his two Pro Bowls coming in 2021 and 2022.

4. He coached Marcedes Lewis to one of the best seasons in his career.

Marcedes Lewis has been one of the most durable players in the NFL for the past 18 years, appearing in 268 games as one of the league's oldest active players. He's had several solid seasons in his career, but one of his best came when Johnson was hired as the Jacksonville Jaguars tight ends coach in 2012.

Lewis, who at that point had already played for six seasons and earned a Pro Bowl selection, ended the 2012 campaign with 540 yards -- the second-best total of his career -- with four touchdowns while averaging 10.4 yards per reception. He was a preferred target for both Chad Henne and Blaine Gabbert, as his receiving yards and targets (77) were both third on the team behind Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts.

5. He's impressed Kliff Kingsbury.

Johnson comes to Washington after spending the last two seasons with the New York Giants, who often struggled to protect their quarterbacks in that span. They ranked in the bottom 10 in sacks allowed in both seasons, including a league-leading 85 in 2023.

Fairly or unfairly, Johnson is associated with those results, but Kliff Kingsbury added him to the Commanders' staff for more than his recent body of work. When asked about why he decided to hire Johnson, Kingsbury cited Johnson's entire resume as a reason why he makes for an ideal fit.

"He has been at a lot of great places," Kingsbury said. "[He] Worked with some great of offenses there in Buffalo with Josh Allen and some of the creativity and the run game stuff they were doing and tempo and some different things that I really liked."

Johnson worked with the Bills right as they were starting to turn into the team they are today. They had one of the best rushing attacks in 2019, accumulating 128.4 yards per game behind Devin Singletary and Frank Gore. They were a top 10 running team again in 2021, which helped them rank fifth in the league with 381.9 yards per game.

The Commanders intend to use a collaborative approach with formulating their offense, and Johnson is part of the discussions to create a scheme that best highlights the players on the roster. From what Kingsbury has heard, he has plenty of insight to offer.

"And so, from afar I liked how he handled himself, some of the stuff he did in the run game and then had got rave reviews from people I really trust in the profession and so did Dan. So, it worked out."

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