Patriots fullback Jakob Johnson is reportedly the latest player to join former offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas, as the German import becomes a Raider, following in the steps of Brandon Bolden, who also reportedly is on his way to Vegas. The Patriots chose not to tag the restricted free agent fullback and his departure will now open up another hole on the roster.
Johnson made a miraculous climb from what Bill Belichick termed the "91st" player to a spot on the 53-man roster. He got his feet wet in 2019 but was felled with an injury that put an early end to his first year. He then played every game in 2020 and 2021, with 17 total starts.
"He came a long way [in 2019], probably amongst the furthest that I've ever coached – probably in the top five anyway," said Bill Belichick of Johnson in 2020. "This year, he was light years ahead of where he was last year in the spring, and that gave him a lot of confidence and gave us a lot of confidence in terms of what he could do, what his skills were and the adjustments he was able to make and so forth. Yeah, he's continued to progress, although the jumps are smaller now because he's already made some enormous jumps, but he continues to improve and get better and refine his techniques and his skillset. He's a young player that works very hard and has continued to improve."
Johnson's hard-nosed blocking was a key feature of the Patriots ground attack and now the team will look toward 2020 draft pick Dalton Keene as a potential replacement, if not targeting another veteran on the open market. Keene missed all of 2021 but was viewed as a move tight end and fullback in his rookie season, though he saw limited action and never seemed to settle into a potential role.