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Wednesday Update: Johnson "making the plays…"

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Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Collin Johnson (19) runs after a reception against the Cleveland Browns during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

JACKSONVILLE – It's there for all to see.

Each week, he improves. Each week, he produces. Each week, he makes more plays. Coaches have seen it recently. And Collin Johnson sees it, too.

"I definitely think the more I play, the more comfortable I get," Johnson said Wednesday as the Jaguars (1-11) prepared to play the Tennessee Titans (8-4) at TIAA Bank Field Sunday at 1 p.m.

That comfort in recent weeks has meant improved production.

Johnson, a fifth-round selection in the 2020 NFL Draft, through 10 games had seven receptions for 69 yards and a touchdown. In the last two games, he has eight receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown – leading the team in receiving yards each of the last two games.

"He's making the plays," offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said.

Gruden on Wednesday spoke of Johnson's skill set – a 6-feet-6, 222-pound frame with a 38-inch vertical leap – and both Gruden and Head Coach Doug Marrone spoke of Johnson's improvement over the last few months.

Marrone said Johnson flashed in training camp, then didn't take advantage of early opportunities in the regular season as much as would have been ideal.

"Collin's a very bright guy, and I think he might have been thinking too much," Marrone said. "That's one of the conversations we had – that you can get on the field and overthink things. You put anxiety on yourself not to make a mistake and you want to make sure you're doing everything correctly. It was like, 'Hey, you've just got to get out there and play. Let it loose. Go ahead and run.'

"He's always done that in practice. In the games early on, he didn't seem like the same type of player we were seeing in practice. Now, you're starting to see that. He's going a really good job."

Gruden agreed that Johnson was perhaps "pressing" earlier in the season.

"When the plays have presented themselves, Collin's starting to take advantage of them," Gruden said. "I think he's letting it happen and letting his size take over and understanding concepts and where to be. The quarterbacks, especially Mike [Glennon], are gaining trust in him and giving him opportunities to make plays.

"A lot of that goes hand in hand. The quarterback has to have trust in you as a player and when you do get the opportunity, you have to make the plays. Collin has definitely done that the last two weeks."

Johnson, like all rookies, entered the regular season with no NFL game experience of any kind after COVID-19 eliminated all preseason games. Rookie wide receivers also often take time to adapt to the NFL as they learn the details and nuances of running routs at the professional level.

Johnson agreed with Marrone that what he showed in practice early didn't translate to games. Now, that that has changed his focus is to continue to build on the production and potential he has shown in recent games.

"Finally, I'm seizing the moment in the game now," he said. "I'm just happy it's finally showing and I'm just excited to keep getting more comfortable and building off of it and pushing myself each and every week.

"I always feel like I can always get better. My mindset's I just want to be better than yesterday and I just take it day by day. I know that sounds cliché, but I really just try to push myself in that regard. I'm just getting more comfortable out there the more I play.

"The game's slowing down for me. I feel like I fully understand the offense, multiple positions, so I'm just taking it week by week and just trying to improve each and every week."

QUOTABLE I

Marrone on rookie running back James Robinson, the NFL's third-leading rusher with 968 yards through 12 games: "Both with success and failure, you can watch players and see how they react to things. You have to be guarded with both. Probably the thing I'm most impressed with with James is his consistency. You talk about a consistent effort, a consistent work ethic, a consistent demeanor. You know what you're getting every day. You're going to get everything he has every day. As a coach, that's really appreciated. He's focused. It's a little bit unique. It's unique and it's greatly appreciated."

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