NFL Nation: D.J. Johnson

Colts add three via waivers

September, 1, 2012
The Colts picked a favorite player at three spots of need off the waiver wire, adding former Patriots safety Sergio Brown, former 49ers offensive tackle Mike Person, and former Jets defensive tackle Martin Tevaseu.

To create room for the waiver claims, Indianapolis cut safety Jermale Hines, cornerback DJ Johnson and offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe.

Brown has appeared in 26 games (three starts) and has totaled 34 tackles (25 solo) and one interception. Last season, he played in 15 games with three starts and made 26 tackles (18 solo) and one interception. He played collegiately at Notre Dame.

Person (6-foot-4, 299 pounds) was originally selected in the seventh round (239th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Last year, he was inactive for all 16 regular season and two preseason games.

Tevaseu (6-2, 325 pounds) bounced between the Jets' practice squad and roster last season, seeing action in five games and totaling three tackles.

The Colts still have the No. 1 slot in the waiver claiming order and could continue to grab people as the rest of the league makes moves.
ANDERSON, Ind. -- Quality over quantity is no way to build a corps of cornerbacks.

But when you’re the Colts, who filled needs all over the board as a new regime took over, it had to happen somewhere. And that somewhere is at corner.

[+] EnlargeJerraud Powers
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireThree-year veteran Jerraud Powers enters the season as a leader of the Colts' secondary.
Beyond No. 1 Jerraud Powers, the team used every available avenue but the draft to help create a field to compete.
Powers has defended a group that’s been widely touted as a weak link, including by me.

“There is no doubt in my mind we’ll have a deep, confident group,” Powers said. “The more people you bring in, the more guys start to look around like, ‘Well this guy’s out to get my job. I’ve got to step my game up, or do this or do that.’

“Once you establish that sort of competition you kind of see who’s going to step up, who’s not, who’s going to play good, who’s going to go in the tank. I think that was kind of the mindset, that we’ve got to bring some competition to the cornerback group. And I think it’s helped so far.”

If I am scheming against the Colts, I’m going four- and five-wide and testing a nickel and dime corner until they prove they can stop me. Yes, they've added people and changed schemes. But a year ago, this team allowed a 71.2 completion percentage, the worst in league history. (Stat courtesy of Mike Chappell of the Indy Star.)

Powers, King and Vaughn all said they figure the same thing about offenses loading up to throw. The Colts believe they can answer effectively.

“It’s a passing league now, you accept that challenge of people saying put them in nickel, put them in sub, put them in dime,” Vaughn said. “That’s the challenge you want. If you’re afraid of the challenge, you shouldn’t even be out there. What do I think about it? We’ll be ready when they come.”

King is the second starter at this point, moving inside on nickel with Vaughn taking his place. But defensive coordinator Greg Manusky's recent endorsement of King sounded lukewarm at best, and it will not be surprising if the Colts continue to bring in other options as players come free around the league.

Powers reminded me he’s just 25, though he’s now the leader of the corners and ranks with safety Antoine Bethea as the leader of the secondary.

He’s been a good player since the Colts drafted him out of Auburn in the third round in 2009, though he’s missed games -- four last year with an elbow injury, eight in 2010, the AFC Championship Game.

While he lines up mostly on the right, if he stays healthy as is a singular player in the group the way I anticipate, he could follow an opponent’s best receiver.

“The leadership situation is one I’m embracing,” he said. “I’ve not really been a rah-rah guys since I’ve been here, but I think since we’re so young this year, I have to speak up more and do things like that and I have.

"Some people are trying to look at me like I am a 29-year old 10-year vet. I’m just going into my fourth year also, so I’m learning every day as well.”

Chuck Pagano’s defense will feature far more man-to-man than the Tony Dungy-Jim Caldwell Colts did. That’s part of why guys from last year’s team like Jacob Lacey and Kevin Thomas are gone.

“It’s more aggressive, more attacking,” Powers said of the scheme. “Coverage is coverage … This is a little more man. It’s not just going to be Dwight (Freeney) and Rob (Mathis) on the outside causing all the havoc on the quarterback. Everybody’s going to be getting pressure from the D-line to the secondary. It’s just fun. It really is a defense where you have a chance to make plays.”

To polish up man techniques he hasn’t used a lot in the last couple years, Powers checked in with his college coaches. Will Muschamp is the head coach at Florida now, and Travaris Robinson is his defensive backs coach with the Gators.

They reviewed things Powers worked on at Auburn to help him regain the footwork and press technique he used as part of the Tigers.

“I took it personally, when I came to training camp, that I was on board,” he said, “that my body and muscles were used to doing those things rather than sitting back in a zone and reacting on a quarterback.”

Tampa Bay Buccaneers cutdown analysis

September, 3, 2011
Check here for a complete list of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' roster moves.

Surprise move: Perhaps the biggest surprise came Friday when the Buccaneers released middle linebacker Tyrone McKenzie. He came to training camp with an apparent shot to win the starting job after the Bucs let Barrett Ruud walk in free agency. McKenzie had helped organize players-only workouts during the lockout and ran the defense during that time.

But the fact the Bucs released him shows they’re more than content to go with rookie Mason Foster as their middle linebacker. He’ll start off as a two-down player, and outside linebacker Quincy Black, who will be an every-down player, will wear the radio helmet and call the defensive signals at least at the start of the season. But it looks like the Bucs have total confidence in Foster. Adam Hayward, who can play outside or inside and on special teams, probably will be Foster’s backup.

A few other pleasant surprises who made the roster were cornerback D.J. Johnson, defensive end George Johnson and safety Devin Holland.

No-brainers: Like a lot of other teams, the Bucs decided to go with just two quarterbacks, waiving Rudy Carpenter. They may try to bring Carpenter back to the practice squad. But the fact they’re willing to expose him to waivers tells you all you really need to know about how the Bucs view Carpenter. He’s a smart guy who knows the system, but he has no upside because he lacks arm strength. If the Bucs truly thought Carpenter could become a No. 2 quarterback, they would have kept him around because backup Josh Johnson can become a free agent next year. Johnson probably will move on because he knows there’s no chance of starting as long as Josh Freeman is around.

What's next: General manager Mark Dominik isn’t likely to be plucking the waiver wire as much as he did last season. But he’ll keep his eyes open, and you could see a move or two. Don’t be surprised if the Bucs bring in a running back, particularly one who fits the profile of a third-down back. Veteran Earnest Graham can fill that role, if needed, but the Bucs also like to use him at fullback.

Wrapping up NFC South preseason

September, 1, 2011
The Panthers, Buccaneers, Saints and Falcons each completed their preseason Thursday night.

Not a lot of starters played, so let’s sum it all up with some quick observations on each team.

  • Tampa Bay coach Raheem Morris sat most of his starters in a 29-24 loss at Washington. But he did a smart thing to get his backups ready. Morris showed his team the film of last year’s fourth preseason game and reminded the players that safety Corey Lynch, who had interceptions in the game, wouldn’t have made the roster without that kind of performance. Some of the “bubble’’ guys who appeared to get the message was defensive back D.J. Johnson and receivers Preston Parker and Ed Gant.
  • Tampa Bay second-round pick Da'Quan Bowers, who had been quiet much of the preseason, made a splash Thursday night. Bowers picked up a fumbled handoff on Washington’s first possession.

  • It wasn’t difficult to figure out that Atlanta coach Mike Smith was sending a message to his defense in the Falcons' 21-7 preseason finale loss to the Ravens. Although most of the offensive starters sat out, most of the defensive starters played. Undoubtedly, to fire up the defense and build some momentum for the start of the regular season. It seemed to work. Brent Grimes came up with an early interception and defensive end Kroy Biermann, starting in place of veteran John Abraham, produced a sack on a play where Ray Edwards also generated some pressure. Speaking of the pass rush, rookie Cliff Matthews also produced some pressure, which might help him secure a roster spot.
  • The one Atlanta offensive starter who did play a lot was rookie receiver Julio Jones. He was still playing in the second quarter and had a nice run on a reverse. He also got a nice block from quarterback Chris Redman. I’m sure part of the reason Jones got playing time was because he missed the normal offseason. But I also suspect the Falcons want to give opposing defensive coordinators some headaches as they watch film of Atlanta’s offense. Speaking of the offense, one reserve who stood out was running back Antone Smith, who might have secured a roster spot.

  • The Saints rested most of their starters, but two members of their recently-shuffled offensive line got to start in a 32-9 loss to the Titans. Those were tackles Jermon Bushrod and Zach Strief. On defense, it was more of the same, but cornerback Tracy Porter got lots of playing time. Porter missed much of the preseason and camp with an injury and this was a chance for him to catch up to his teammates.
  • Although the Saints appeared to be loaded at running back with Mark Ingram, Pierre Thomas, Chris Ivory and Darren Sproles, Joique Bell has had such a strong preseason that it’s going to be difficult to cut him. If Bell does somehow hit the streets, Tampa Bay, which doesn’t have a lot of depth in the backfield, should do anything possible to get him.

  • One of the best signs for Carolina was the presence of right tackle Jeff Otah. He had missed some time with a knee injury, but it looks like he’s healthy. Otah could be the difference between Carolina having a mediocre offensive line and a very good one.
  • One of the worst signs for Carolina was when right guard Garry Williams went down with a knee injury in the second quarter of the 33-17 loss to Pittsburgh. The Panthers already lost starter Geoff Schwartz to injury and Williams had been the heir apparent. The Panthers don’t have lots of depth on the line and may have to go out and find someone off the waiver wire or in a trade.

Graham, Stroughter out for Bucs

January, 2, 2011
NEW ORLEANS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will be without injured fullback Earnest Graham and wide receiver Sammie Stroughter for Sunday’s game with the Saints.

Graham (neck) and Stroughter (hamstring) have been declared inactive. Erik Lorig is expected to start in Graham’s place. With Stroughter out and Arrelious Benn already on injured reserve, Tampa Bay will have to look to Preston Parker, Dezmon Briscoe, Micheal Spurlock and Maurice Stovall for depth at wide receiver.

Other inactives for the Bucs are: cornerback DJ Johnson, tackle Will Barker, defensive end George Johnson, defensive tackle Doug Worthington and tight end Nathan Overbay.

Hakeem Nicks is good to go

October, 25, 2010
ARLINGTON, Texas -- New York Giants wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, who missed most of last week's practices with a hamstring issue, is active for tonight's game against the Dallas Cowboys. Nicks told reporters all week that he planned to play, but he was limited in practice Saturday.

Nicks has emerged as the Giants' most explosive receiver and it's likely that he'll test Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins early in this game. Here are the other inactives for the Giants and Cowboys:

Giants: DB D.J. Johnson, FB Madison Hedgecock, LB Phillip Dillard, G Mitch Petrus, T Will Beatty, T Jamon Meredith, DE Mathias Kiwanuka, DT Linval Joseph.

Cowboys: QB Stephen McGee, LB Leon Williams, LB Jason Williams, G Kyle Kosier, T Sam Young, T Jermey Parnell, WR Kevin Ogletree, DE Sean Lissemore