Patriots: Addition Damaris Johnson Can Make Huge Impact


The New England Patriots made an interesting signing on Tuesday, bringing in speed demon Damaris Johnson.

As the wrath of injuries continue to take away the Patriots’ most primary offensive weapons, the team recently went outside of the organization to find play-makers. The first move was signing wide receiver/return specialist Damaris Johnson as a free agent.

When it comes to Johnson, one word immediately comes to mind: speed. Johnson has plenty of it, and is capable of making plays from anywhere on the field. The choices in free agency and on the waiver wire are extremely limited right now, but I think the Patriots have brought in a player who can make a difference for their team.

Johnson has been in the league since making the Philadelphia Eagles as an undrafted free agent in 2012. Johnson was able to make an immediate impact for the Eagles as a strong returner and a part-time receiver. The highlight of his rookie season was an electric 98-yard punt return on Sunday Night Football against the Dallas Cowboys.

Johnson showed incredible speed and burst on the play, tying an NFL record for the longest punt return in the history of the league. Johnson was a solid returner for the Eagles for two seasons, but made little offensive impact.

He played in all 16 games for the Houston Texans in 2014, as the team’s primary returner. Johnson was also able to get a bit more of a chance on offense with the Texans, bringing in 31 receptions for 331 yards and one touchdown as a slot receiver for the team. Despite his relative success, Johnson was not brought back by Houston this season, and has not been on an NFL roster at all in 2015.

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At 5-foot-8, 175 pounds, size has always been, and always will be, the number one concern when it comes to Johnson’s ability to make a consistent impact on an NFL field. He has speed and athleticism for days, but teams have always shied away from him because of his lack of size.

Luckily for Johnson, the Patriots are literally the best team in the league at using undersized, speedy players on offense. The slot receiver position is arguably the most important position in the Patriots’ offense, on this side of Tom Brady.

Brady loves working the short passing game, with the slot receiver always being featured. With the injuries to Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola, the Patriots are lacking options at slot receiver. I am not saying that Johnson will step right in and replace the production of Edelman and Amendola, but he does give Brady a play-making option who has had an NFL impact before.

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I see no reason why the Patriots cannot find a way to get Johnson involved out of the slot, at least on a limited basis. Brady needs receivers who can make plays, and Johnson has the skills to do so.

Whether the Patriots use Johnson on offense or not remains to be seen, but he will undoubtedly be asked to make an impact on special teams. Edelman was the team’s primary punt returner before he went out with a broken foot, and Amendola took over the duties after that.

Amendola’s knee injury forced him out of action last week, and the punt returning duties went to undrafted rookie Chris Harper, who’s fourth quarter fumble on the punt return swung the momentum away from the Patriots in their eventual loss to the Denver Broncos. Harper was released by New England this week, and Johnson was seemingly brought in primarily to step in as a returner.

Amendola may return this week, but to help keep him healthy, I would like to see the Patriots just allow Johnson to take the returning duties. He is a player they can rely on back there.

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Johnson is a relatively established NFL player whose potential impact for the team is easy to see. I am extremely interested to see what Bill Belichick and the Patriots have in store for him. Sure, he may have just been brought in as a returner, and that is just fine, but he could also become a strong offensive weapon for this team.