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In first career start, Texas’ Collin Johnson shined for receiver-depleted Jacksonville Jaguars

Garry Smits / Florida Times-Union

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — One of the Jacksonville Jaguars’ rookie wide receivers needed to step up on Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, with the absence of veterans DJ Chark and Chris Conley.

Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Collin Johnson (19) makes a catch in the first quarter during the Jaguars vs. Browns game at TIAA Bank Field in Jacksonville, FL on Sunday, November 29, 2020.

Collin Johnson, the fifth-round pick from Texas, not only did that but provided the longest offensive play for a Jaguars rookie this season in the 27-25 loss at TIAA Bank Field.

Johnson’s 46-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter from quarterback Mike Glennon gave the Jags a 13-10 lead and was one of the team’s most spectacular catch-and-run plays this season.

The previous long play from scrimmage by a Jags’ rookie was James Robinson’s 39-yard gain against Tennessee in week two.

“Collin Johnson came up big today,” Jags coach Doug Marrone said.

Johnson led the Jaguars in receptions and yards with four for 96 yards. Laviska Shenault had three catches for 31 yards and had one running play for 6 yards.

“With DJ down and Chris down … we couldn’t have a dropoff,” Johnson said. “It’s all about picking up where the older guys left off. Laviska and I made some plays and we have to continue to get better … learn from the film and go from there.”

The biggest play of Johnson’s young NFL career thus far, with 4:14 left in the second quarter, began when he lined up on the right side, came across the field, and found an opening in Cleveland’s cover-3 zone.

Glennon lobbed the ball over safety Karl Joseph’s head and into Johnson’s arms. Johnson then made a mad dash for the end zone and beat cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Terrance Mitchell to the pylon in the left corner, at the goal line.

“There aren’t many receivers in the NFL that are (Johnson’s) height (6-6),” Glennon said. “But I didn’t know he had that kind of burst. I figured it could be a big completion, but the next thing you know he’s taking it to the house.”

Johnson said he didn’t plan on being denied.

“I knew I could make it,” he said. “Mike threw a perfect pass and I kept running.”

The two almost connected on a play that could have tied the game. After James Robinson scored on a four-yard run with 2:22 left to cut the Browns’ lead to two points, the Jags were forced to go for a two-point conversion.

Glennon had to scramble and Johnson broke off his route and tried to find some open space at the back in the end zone. Glennon spotted him but fired the ball too high.

It wasn’t a surprise to either player that they had a good connection in the game. Glennon was the third-team quarterback until Gardner Minshew was injured and Marrone went to Jake Luton, so Glennon and Johnson have had numerous practice reps together.

“Mike and I will go with the scout team and it’s easy to think that’s not a live rep,” Johnson said. “But I see it as an opportunity to get work in. You have to take every rep in practice seriously, whether it’s with the 1s, 2s or scout team and that’s what we’ve been doing.”