New Bucs starting right defensive end Michael Johnson, who was signed as a free agent last month, is hoping to get back to double-digit sacks in 2014 and thinks having Gerald McCoy on the same line will help. Johnson has also been watching film of former Bucs star Simeon Rice.
The last time the Buccaneers had a double-digit sack pass rusher, George Bush was in the White House, Miley Cyrus was still Hannah Montana and new Buccaneers defensive end Michael Johnson was a freshman at Georgia Tech.
2014 will make eight seasons since Bucs great Simeon Rice led the Buccaneers with 14 sacks, and during that time numerous players have worn the red and pewter trying to hit that elusive mark without success.
Johnson is hoping to break that stretch of futility and is trying to channel his inner-Simeon Rice by watching film of the eccentric but ultra-talented pass rusher.
“Yes, we just got finished watching a lot of him,” Johnson said. “Definitely [see some similarities]. He’s a long guy that is very athletic and could constantly get to the quarterback. He didn’t do a whole bunch of different things, but what he did do he was good at. You’ll definitely see some of that in me this year.”
“Anytime you have a rusher with similar body types you try to look and see what they did and what they were successful at and try to work on that yourself. If it’s something you can become good at, then cool. If not, find whatever your niche is. It’s good to look at a guy like that that has put together the career he has and incorporate that into your own game. I hope I get the chance to talk to him as well.”
Johnson was signed as a free agent by the Buccaneers last month and heads up a free agent class that is expected to make the Buccaneers competitive right out of the gate, helping fans forget the 4-12 debacle of the 2013 season. The former Bengals starter has eclipsed the double-digit sack plateau just once in his career (11.5 in 2012), but told the media on Tuesday that having Gerald McCoy playing on the same defensive line should help him excel.
“Anytime you can have the opportunity to play beside a guy that is as talented as he is and what he’s done in the league so far and what he’s going to do, you want to jump at that opportunity and take advantage of it,” Johnson said. “It’s a blessing and I look forward to it.
“Anytime you have a guy like that inside that is working it makes it easier for the whole defense. Whether it’s me, guys on the other side or guys in the secondary or linebackers – a player like that that demands the attention that he demands is a difference-maker.”
Besides lining up with McCoy, Johnson is also excited to see how new defensive line coach Joe Cullen can help him and the entire defensive line reach their goals.
“He’s very intense with a lot of details,” Johnson said. “That’s good because sometimes you don’t really go into the details much. It’s ‘Just go, just go!’ He’s doing a lot of things to break each one of [our game’s] down. That’s the good thing about being here early. You have that extra time to go through [techniques] and watching tape on guys that have done it and done it at a high level throughout their careers. We’ve been watching some of those guys and trying to incorporate some of that into our games.”
Cullen was also very complimentary when speaking about Johnson to Buccaneers.com’s Scott Smith recently.
"Any time you can add a player of either one of those guys' caliber, it's going to help a lot," Cullen said. "You look at what Michael has done, coming out of Georgia Tech, what he's done at Cincinnati. Then you look at Clinton McDonald and he really had his first opportunity last year. He had a great year, I believe, for the Super Bowl champs and Michael's been a great presence on the edge the last couple years for Cincinnati. He had 11.5 sacks a couple years ago and was really disruptive last year. He actually had more pressures last year than he had the previous year."
While most, nationally at least, aren’t predicting the playoffs for the Buccaneers in 2014, Johnson said that is the specific goal set forth by the coaching staff in their early season meetings.
“Everybody is 0-0 right now,” Johnson said. “Why not? Why not us [making the playoffs, winning the Super Bowl]? That’s our goal. I’ve been in a situation with a team that was 4-12 and you turn it around and go to the playoffs. Why not go all the way? We have the talent to do it. We just have to put the work in and continuously be conscientious about everything you do. That’s the one thing that Coach Cullen is doing in our meetings – going over the small details and stuff like that. It’s been fun.”
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