For this entire year the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have struggled to slow anyone down through the air. This past week they had a tough challenge facing one of the premier receivers in the game in Percy Harvin. While he made some plays, and a very nice touch down catch the Buccaneers defense actually performed pretty well against the pass.
Whether that was due to Christian Ponder being off, or the added pressure that the Buccaneers defense was able to get this week, it was a better performance all around for them. One guy in particular got to see some extended time for the first time this season and that player was undrafted free agent Leonard Johnson.
Johnson, despite being undrafted, was one of my favorite corners in this past years draft. He is undersized, and doesn’t have the great top end speed you want in a corner, but he is a guy that battles. In his senior season he battled it out with top ten pick Justin Blackmon, and was a big factor in Iowa State beating the then undefeated Oklahoma State team.
As a local product Johnson grew up close to Tampa in near by Clearwater. He stuck on the roster and has seen limited action throughout the regular season until this past week against the Minnesota Vikings. He stepped in for Brandon McDonald, who has seen an increased role since the suspension of Aqib Talib.
In one of his first series in, Leonard lined up across from Harvin and was tested immediately. He played him as well as you could and ripped the ball away from him at the last second to be what appeared to me as a clean interception. That set the tone for the type of game he was going to play.
For the rest of the game he saw more time and the Vikings passing game couldn’t establish anything, until the final drive where a few plays were let up. Johnson showed the type of player he could be by again flashing inside of a route and intercepting Ponder to wrap up the Buccaneers victory.
While Talib is only one week away from coming back from suspension, I would love to see more of Johnson as the season goes on. E.J. Biggers has continually been an up and down player who has one great game, then one terrible one. I think Johnson can offer consistency as the third rotating corner back, and I hope he gets the chance to prove that as the season goes on.