Why did NY Jets 'LB' Jermaine Johnson switch positions?

Why is Jermaine Johnson a linebacker now?
NY Jets, Jermaine Johnson
NY Jets, Jermaine Johnson / Rich Schultz/GettyImages

Former NY Jets first-round pick Jermaine Johnson is officially switching back to his college number of No. 11, and in doing so, he's also switching positions — at least technically.

Johnson showed up to practice on Saturday donning a No. 11 jersey after the number became available following the team's decision to trade wide receiver Denzel Mims to the Detroit Lions.

Johnson, who wore No. 52 as a rookie, is now being listed by the Jets as a linebacker. The 6-foot-5, 260-pound edge rusher doesn't really have any experience as an off-ball linebacker, so the decision raised some eyebrows.

The actual reason for the switch, however, is purely cosmetic. Per the NFL's number rules, defensive linemen are only permitted to wear numbers between 50-79 and 90-99. Linebackers, however, are able to wear numbers between 0-50 and 90-99.

That means Johnson wouldn't have been able to switch to No. 11 had he still been listed as a defensive end. His switch to "linebacker" is purely in name only.

Jermaine Johnson is a part of a deep NY Jets defensive line group

The 26th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, Johnson played a part-time role as a rookie, appearing in 14 games and tallying 2.5 sacks. He played 34 percent of the Jets' defensive snaps as part of a crowded defensive line rotation.

The Jets clearly had big plans for Johnson after trading back into the first round to draft him, but given the depth in the team's defensive line room, he hasn't been able to make the same immediate impact that fellow first-round picks Sauce Gardner and Garrett Wilson have.

Johnson is once again expected to take on a part-time role this season, although there's a chance the Jets increase his playing time as the year goes on. He will be given every opportunity to prove he deserves more snaps.

Johnson joins the likes of Carl Lawson, John Franklin-Myers, Will McDonald, Bryce Huff, and Micheal Clemons in what might be the deepest group of defensive ends in the NFL.

There will be a struggle for playing time, but Johnson has every chance to solidify a permanent role in this Jets' defensive line. Now, he'll be wearing his preferred jersey number as well.