NASHVILLE, Tenn. —* *Austin Johnson learned patience in college, and the experience helped him during his first NFL season.
The defensive lineman hopes to follow a similar path to success with the Titans.
"As the season went on, I feel like I got better in the defense," said Johnson, a second-round pick by the Titans in the 2016 draft, out of Penn State. "I am definitely better from a technique standpoint. And being around some of the veterans, it was eye opening, just listening to them and learning what to expect.
"I know I have to keep getting better, so it's just continuing to build."
Selected 43rd overall in the draft, Johnson was inactive for six of the team's first nine games. But he ended on a high note, playing in the final seven games, when he made some plays. Johnson finished with 15 tackles, a half sack and a quarterback pressure during his rookie season.
Titans defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau said the experience helped him.
"(His improvement) has been constant and steady, and I think it accelerated the last few games,'' LeBeau said at season's end. "I have talked a lot about the experience factor at this level, getting NFL snaps and playing experience and that's helped him grow.
"You can talk and show and teach, but until they get on the field and experience NFL competition, that will bring their career along the quickest."
At the end of the season, Johnson talked about paying his dues at Penn State before he broke through, and had big success. Johnson racked up 78 tackles and 6.5 sacks in his final season at Penn State. He also had a 71-yard fumble return for a touchdown that year.
He has high hopes for his future in Tennessee. As a reserve nose tackle at Indianapolis, Johnson teamed with linebacker Derrick Morgan to sack Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Johnson totaled a career-best four tackles in the team's win at Kansas City late in the season.
"At Penn State I had a redshirt year, so I sat out for a year behind a good group of guys," he said. "It took a little time, and it was a process, and I redshirted and then my redshirt freshman year I rotated in, played a lot of snaps and made some plays. And I was constantly building. My sophomore year I got even better, and redshirt junior year I kind of took off.
"So (the NFL) is another process. I am definitely better (from when I first arrived), and I just have to get better in the defense, and being able to play in it."
TitansOnline.com looks back at defensive lineman Austin Johnson's rookie season with the Titans in 2016. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)