Defensive end Michael Johnson has been unable to live up to the expectations set forth after his offseason signing with the Buccaneers. He has recorded 13 tackles and two sacks this season, both sacks coming in Week 4 against the Pittsburgh Steelers. While the numbers are less than impressive, the bigger disappointment came this past Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
Johnson had a big opportunity to silence critics and prove his worth when he faced Ravens' rookie left tackle James Hurst. But Hurst got the best of the sixth-year veteran defensive end for all four quarters of play.
His play has disappointed many, including his head coach.
“Not as good of production as we need is what I’ll say," said head coach Lovie Smith as he addressed the production of his defensive ends. "But for Michael Johnson, he’s been banged up most of the year. After the bye week, you should be pretty close to being at full speed then. But, of course, it takes more than him. We looked at different combinations right there. I’ll just say that we need to get more production from him, and we have to, led by our bell cow Michael Johnson.”
Johnson signed a five-year, $43.75 million contract with Tampa Bay this past March to be one of the bell cows of the offensive line. He also acknowledged his lack of performance but added that it is a collective effort.
“Yeah, we’ve got to be more consistent – me personally," Johnson said. "I’ve got to do a better job at what I’m doing. It all works together. Each one of us, we’ve got to look at ourselves and just try to continue to improve. And we will.”
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has seen a lot of double teams. Hope was that lining up Johnson next to McCoy would allow for the two to be successful. Unfortunately, the former Bengals defensive end has been unable to produce, whether he has been limited due to an injury or not.
The focus has now shifted to getting injured players back with this week being the team's bye week. Smith expects Johnson to return to full speed after the bye. Either way, Smith has put his 27-year old defensive end on notice.
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