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Kerryon Johnson’s 2019 goal: Play a full season

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The young running back is spending his extra offseason time getting stronger and faster.

Carolina Panthers v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Last year, the Kerryon Johnson hype was real. After his breakout game against the Miami Dolphins, in which he rushed for 158 yards and 8.3 yards per carry, Johnson was firmly in the Offensive Rookie of the Year discussion. At the time, he was second in the league in yards per carry (6.4) and ninth in rushing yards (444).

But a month later, it was all over. Johnson suffered a leg injury against the Panthers in Week 11 and didn’t return the rest of the season.

Now with a full offseason in hand, Johnson’s goals are clear:

“17-game season, and hopefully more. That’s always been my goal,” Johnson told the media on Thursday. “I feel like if I do that the rest will take care of itself.”

Rookie years are tough for players. Not only is there a steep learning curve making the transition from amateur to pros, but much of the offseason is spent preparing for the NFL Combine and pro days.

“You don’t really get a chance to get better at football, really get that much stronger, really work on your specific skills,” Johnson said.

Additionally, Johnson admitted that he hit a rookie wall last year. Combine training, follow by rookie minicamp, followed by OTAs, followed by training camp, followed by the preseason is a grueling schedule for a rookie.

“Rookie wall hit me at like fall camp, bro,” Johnson said. “Going through preseason games like, ‘Yo, we haven’t even started yet?’”

But now fully healthy from his injury, Johnson is spending this year’s offseason taking advantage of that extra time and getting ready for the grind.

“So I got a full, whatever, 3.5-4 months whatever it is, and I think that time that I put in, and the work that I put in will hopefully pay off this season.”

Johnson came into the league with a bit of an injury-prone reputation. Though he only missed a total of four games at Auburn, he underwent offseason shoulder surgery in 2016, missed a few games with a hamstring injury, and suffered another shoulder injury in his final regular season game in college.

But Johnson sounds ready to prepare himself mentally and physically to put that stigma behind him.

“I gotta work on getting stronger, getting better, making sharper cuts, being a smarter player. When it comes to the season, we’ll see how I line up.”