Versatile Will Johnson could play dual role in Giants offense

Posted May 28, 2016

Will Johnson played fullback and tight end during his time with the Steelers:

Since Ben McAdoo first arrived as an offensive coordinator in 2014, the Giants have had a lot of moving pieces at both tight end and fullback. The hope is that an under-the-radar signing in April will help change that pattern: Will Johnson.

Johnson came over from the Pittsburgh Steelers where he signed in 2012 after sitting out a year of football after going undrafted in 2011. Johnson played four years in Pittsburgh and played a hybrid position between tight end and fullback.

“I did a lot of lead blocking, a lot of backup tight end things,” Johnson said. “I did a lot of movement around the offense. I helped there and with special teams.”


When McAdoo, now the head coach, was asked if he sees Johnson as a fullback, tight end, or both, he played coy.

“Sure,” he said, not tipping his hand.
It’s fair to say the Giants are looking forward to utilizing his versatility.

 “I definitely see myself as an H-Back but it’s about what you can do and how you can help the offense,” Johnson said when asked about his game. “I feel comfortable wherever they put me. I’m in the tight ends room now with coach [Kevin M.] Gilbride. I feel comfortable doing that and we’ll see where I end up eventually.”

McAdoo uses his tight ends all over the field. They line up on the line of scrimmage, in the backfield, out wide, in the slot, at the boundary, and are often set in motion. They need to fill a lot of different roles depending on the formation and play. It was the Giants’ offense that drew Johnson to New York.

“I like what the offense did last year. I think I fit right in,” he said. “It’s a good situation here for me. I see myself doing a number of things. I think coach McAdoo will do a great job involving me in the offense, and we’ll see how they use me. I think I can do a lot of different things.”

The veteran in a young tight ends room that features fourth-year player Larry Donnell, second-year players Matt LaCosse and Will Tye, and rookies Ryan Malleck and Jerell Adams, Johnson will be in a great position to compete for a roster spot and playing time. He’ll be able to pass on some of his experience to a group of young and talented players.


“I think I can help,” Johnson said. “Not necessarily come in and be a starter at tight end but I think I can help those guys out, whatever that may be.”

Johnson’s experience lining up at different positions in Pittsburgh and being an established and effective blocker could be a boon for an offense trying to put together a more consistent running game in 2016.