It feels as though every week you read the Buccaneers have hit a new low. Or that players have hit new lows for their performances. But that statement holds true following the loss Sunday afternoon to the Detroit Lions.
Tampa Bay went out and got several players during free agency that were believed to help this team get out of the NFL’s cellar. One of those players were defensive end Michael Johnson, who was said to be the edge rusher the Bucs have been missing. Unfortunately that assessment was wrong and his play on Sunday was one of the worst days he has had as a Buc.
Johnson was pushed around like he was an undersized defensive end all afternoon by third year left tackle Riley Reiff, who sent him to the ground countless times. He missed tackles and even missed a takedown of Detroit quarterback Matt Stafford and wide receiver Golden Tate -- who whiffed on the arm tackle on the 195-pound receiver. The sixth-year defensive end was also poor in coverage as he missed several opportunities on breaking up or even preventing big gains on receiver screens and underneath routes.
But the biggest low came in the third quarter. On a reverse by Lions’ receiver Jeremy Ross, Stafford was a lead blocker. The 234-pound quarterback saw the 270-pound defensive end and gave him a shoulder right to his chest. Johnson would be knocked backwards who then bumped into cornerback Leonard Johnson -- who was engaged in a block -- resulting in the defensive losing his balance and stumble forward. How would Ndamukong Suh have handled that? J.J Watt? Mario Williams?
Johnson isn’t the only free agent acquisition that failed his team on Sunday. That other name is Evan Dietrich-Smith.
The veteran center was disappointing as he was seen pushed back off the line and stand around watching rookie running back get tackled for a loss. How well will that look on tape? Then in the second quarter, he single-handedly botched the snap to Josh McCown (who was under center, not in shotgun) as he never got the ball up and into the hands of his quarterback. Instead it just rolled along the ground allowing Detroit to recover it.
Like Johnson, Dietrich-Smith also had a bigger low. When McCown was sacked for a near-safety in the fourth quarter, he was seen again as a spectator watching the sack unfold behind him while guards Patrick Omameh and Logan Mankins along with left tackle Oneil Cousins were still hustling getting to the defenders even though McCown was going down.
There have been some bad showings this season but none like Sunday. Games like these bring up the usual questions like ‘Why not stick with Jeremy Zuttah’ or ‘Why not play Jacquies Smith or T.J. Fatinikum more over Johnson’. But nearly every decision made to this point deserves to be questioned. The performances from Week 14 make it no different.
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