Rotating behind defensive ends Ezekial Ansah and Jason Jones last season in Detroit, George Johnson was primarily used as a situational player, rarely seeing more than 30 snaps a game. Yet despite a limited role in 2015, Johnson recorded six sacks, 29 tackles and had a particularly impressive performance against Tampa Bay, leaving the Bucs enough reason to pursue him and have high expectations as he enters his sixth season.
“When George did play for an extended period of time – I think he played most of the game against us – we saw what type of football player he is,” head coach Lovie Smith said. “George is good enough to be a starter in this league and (can) be a good starter in this league.”
The Bucs surrendered a fifth-round pick for Johnson, avoiding arbitration after a dispute with with the Lions over the original offer sheet. And while some saw Tampa Bay’s trade agreement as desperation to sign another edge rusher, Johnson saw it as a team fully committed to him.
Now, he’s looking to live up to those expectations.
“They were the only team who actually fought for me,” Johnson said. “I’d never had a team fight for me and want me so bad. When I came here on a visit and talked to them, they just continuously kept fighting for me. They wanted me here and I could tell that. That’s what made me say, ‘this is the place I need to be.’ If they’re going to fight for me… they’re going to give me their all and I have to give them my all.”
Tampa Bay held their second practice of OTAs on Thursday, and although they’re not ready to name starters, Johnson was seen taking reps at the right end position, opposite Jacquies Smith with the first-team defense. So far, Smith believes they got the guy they traded for.
“He’s been about what we thought he’d be,” Smith said. “We brought him in to be one of our defensive ends, to rush the passer and also to be a good run support player, a guy that plays with emotion. All of those things we’ve seen. Again for the linemen, D-linemen, O-linemen, there’s only so much you can see. But he shows up every day, works the same way and he’ll be one of our guys this year. We’ve seen enough to know that.”
After last season’s struggle to apply consistent pressure from the edge, the Bucs need their defensive ends to step up and contribute in 2015. A double-digit sack man would certainly lift the entire defense, and although no one on Tampa Bay’s line has accomplished that feat to this point in their career, Johnson not only believes he can – but has to start the trend.
“I need to be (a 10 sack man),” Johnson said. “That’s what they brought me in here to do, that’s what they want me to do and that’s exactly what I’m going to give them. The sky is the limit. I still don’t have a ceiling, that’s how I feel.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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