Johnson will need to make an impact on special teams to make the Eagles. In Thursday night's 24-23 preseason win over the Steelers, he did just that.
He and fellow rookie Brandon Boykin, an electric fourth-round pick out of Georgia, are the faces of a new-look return unit that will try to improve on a dismal 2011.
"It's good to be going through this with someone in similar shoes," Boykin said. "After returns, we talk on the sideline about what we could have done better and we did well."
Boykin is close to a shoo-in to make the team. It's just a matter of how much playing time he'll get. Boykin is battling Joselio Hanson for the nickel-back spot. Because of his inexperience, he'll likely open the season as the backup. That means the 5-foot-9, 182-pounder will likely have ample opportunity on kickoff returns.
Boykin carried the Eagles' first kickoff return out from 8 yards deep in the end zone. He cut right, made a defender miss, then scampered up the sideline for a 46- yard return.
The improvement in both the kickoff and punt return could be dramatic. The Eagles ranked 31st in average kickoff return yards in 2011 and didn't have a punt returner in the league's top 30.
Thursday night, Boykin returned three kickoffs for 89 yards. Johnson returned three punts for 18 after his long return was called back.
"Experience is going to set in as we play more," Boykin said. "We'll continue to get better."
Wide receiver Jeremy Maclin was a late scratch after suffering a hamstring injury during warmups. No other information was provided during the game. Maclin was expected to play after suffering from cramps during the last full practice on Monday.
Johnson took Maclin's place in the starting lineup.
Seven players recorded at least half a sack for the Eagles, who brought down Steelers quarterbacks in the backfield seven times. Third-string left defensive end Phillip Hunt finished with two sacks.
Jason Peters has sued the maker of a modified crutch and walker he was using during his rehabilitation from a ruptured Achilles tendon, claiming he would have returned to play this season had the device not broken and caused him to reinjure himself.
Attorneys for the five-time Pro Bowl offensive tackle filed suit against the Roll-A-Bout Corp. Thursday, alleging strict liability, breach of warranties, and negligence. The Eagles bought the device for Peters.
Report: Luries settle
Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and his wife, Christina, have reached a divorce settlement, according to a report in Thursday's New York Post. An Eagles official had no comment.
The report indicated that Christina would receive "a sizable chunk of the team," although it did not divulge details.
Staff writers Jonathan Lai and Zach Berman contributed to this article.