"We don't want him catching that at the 5," April said on Thursday. "We want to do everything we can to keep our offense from huddling in the end zone. We think Damaris is good. He's made a couple mistakes, but we've already paid for those.
"We paid our tuition, we got our education, and I think he's going to be good. I think he's going to be fine. Can we afford for him to continue making the same mistakes? Of course not. We've got to correct it."
Some have been clamoring for April to put DeSean Jackson back on punt returns, considering Jackson's career average per return (10.6) doubles Johnson (5.3). It's something April said he hasn't considered "at this point."
Frankly, it's something April can't consider. Jackson is on the field for 93.7 percent of the Eagles' offensive snaps already, according to Pro Football Focus. Jackson is the Eagles' offense - and even more so when Jeremy Maclin is sidelined, as he was Sunday with a hip injury.
"We think Damaris is going to do a good job back there," April said. "We think he's a good returner. He's going to get the ball, and he's going to get up field."
When Johnson has brought the ball out, he's shown bursts of speed and the ability to make defenders miss. He just hasn't been able to hang on to it.
He juked at least four Cardinals on Sunday, moving a first-quarter return 12 yards from the Eagles' 26, before he was stripped by Mike Leach. That career-high return turned out to be utterly embarrassing. Kevin Kolb needed only 3:32 to find Michael Floyd in the end zone to give Arizona a 7-0 lead.
Johnson said on Thursday that the Eagles always work on ball security on punt returns in practice, but it was even more of a focus this week after the points-costing fumble.
"A guy just reached in, so it's something we certainly have to address," April said. "It's not like it was a jarring hit or the timing of it came so that he couldn't hold on."
Johnson had seven fumbles in 491 touches at Tulsa, where he went on to rack up more total yards (7,796) in only three seasons than any other player in NCAA history. That makes April a little less concerned about fumbles and more worried about field position.
"He's just losing awareness of where he's at," April said. "He shouldn't, or you wouldn't think he would, but he has. Sometimes those things, depending on the punt, you might want to let that one go in even if you're going to catch it at the 10, because it's going to hit and go into [the end zone]."
Johnson said he's trying to make the adjustments necessary to be competitive. He said he has been so focused on not bobbling the catch that he's lost his position on the field.
"You have to concentrate," Johnson said. "There's guys running past you. It's loud. Any lack of concentration and you will lose the ball. It takes study throughout the week, watching film on the punter, trying to figure out his net punting [distance].
"Everything is different [from Tulsa]. The kickers are getting the ball higher; they're better at locating the ball. The speed of the guys is much different. It comes down to little things."
Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg praised Johnson, who netted a career-high 84 receiving yards on five catches in Maclin's absence Sunday, saying he's "pleased" with the spot Johnson was put into. Johnson saw 57 offensive snaps against Arizona, up from the 34 combined he played in the first 2 weeks. That number is expected to dip on Sunday night against the Giants with Maclin back.
The Eagles are hoping the reduction in offensive snaps will allow Johnson better focus on special teams. Johnson can be a dangerous weapon. He returned two punts for touchdowns at Tulsa on only 47 tries, averaging 12.1 yards per return. So far, he's been an easy mark for opposing punters - a rookie caught staring into the bright lights of the NFL.
"They're giving me a chance to play," Johnson said. "I like my role. When he puts me back there, I just want to go and try to make the best decision that I can. I feel that I can do that for this team."
Contact Frank Seravalli at email@example.com.