Before the season started, I thought the biggest free agent signing for the Bucs was defensive end Michael Johnson. This was the guy who could be that dominant pass rusher coming off the edge. The guy that would compliment Gerald McCoy and take advantage of one on one match ups consistently. The Bucs certainly felt that way and paid him accordingly. 5 years worth $43.75 million, including $24 million guaranteed.
Johnson certainly has been slowed by an ankle injury and that no doubt has limited his production this year. When he's been on the field, he's been unproductive. I talked earlier about the coaching staff trying to make changes to their scheme during this bye week. What they are doing right now just isn't working. Not only do personnel changes have to be made, but you need to form a game plan that suites your players talents.
Greg Cosell from NFL films, who was on with Fan Interference on 98.7 The Fan on Thursday, says Johnson really doesn't fit the Bucs scheme defensively.
"You have to understand what you are getting," Cosell said of Michael Johnson. "I'm sure people in Tampa, when he got signed, thought that, 'oh you are getting a pass rusher.' He's not a pass rusher in the strict sense. He's a good football player, but in this particular scheme where four man d-line pass rush is critical to the success of the scheme, he's not that guy."
Oh boy. If a 4 man d-line pass rush is critical to the success of the scheme, then Johnson is not that guy! How can this be? If Cosell sees this and saw it during his endless hours of watching tape over the years, how did the Bucs not see this with Johnson when they were courting him in free agency? Johnson is being paid to be an integral part of that defense. So far he's playing like he has a bit part. If the scheme isn't fitting his talents, then the Bucs have to figure out one that will. Lovie Smith believes in his principles. That's fine. Any successful coach does. You also have to show some flexibility with your philosophies.
Maybe Johnson was overvalued when the Bucs signed him in the off season. Maybe his production was a product of the Bengals defensive line being so good. Regardless, the Bucs need more from Johnson. If that means tinkering with the scheme to do it, then so be it. I know one thing. Any successful coaching staff would find a way. Hopefully the bye week gets Johnson healthy. But more importantly, let's hope the coaching staff finds a scheme that fits his talents.
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