Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Michael Johnson

Buccaneers at the bye: Defense

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their bye week, let’s take a position-by-position look at how they’ve performed so far.

Defensive line. Tackle Gerald McCoy and end Michael Johnson have been playing through injuries. They’ve been decent, but haven’t done anything special. William Gholston moved into the starting lineup at end after Adrian Clayborn suffered a season-ending injury, but hasn’t had a big impact. Tackle Clinton McDonald was supposed to add interior pass-rushing skills, but he’s been quiet so far. The Bucs have only nine sacks. They need to get a lot more active up front for coach Lovie Smith’s defensive scheme to have a chance to work. GRADE: D

Linebackers. Lavonte David has been solid, but he hasn’t been coming up with a lot of big plays. Middle linebacker Mason Foster missed three games with a shoulder injury and that really hurt the defense. Danny Lansanah has been a bright spot. He’s taken the starting job on the strong side away from Jonathan Casillas. Lansanah has returned two interceptions for touchdowns. GRADE: C

Defensive backs. The Bucs have a lot invested in their secondary, but they haven’t been getting much in return. Safeties Mark Barron and Dashon Goldson have been very quiet. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Johnthan Banks have been slightly better, but they’re not coming up with big plays. GRADE: F

Lovie Smith: Bucs close to winning

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
TAMPA, Fla. – One thing has become very obvious about Lovie Smith. The coach seems to look at the world through rose-colored glasses.

His team is 1-4, but Smith doesn’t sound like it.

“We’re a better football team now than the last time we played at Raymond James Stadium,’’ Smith said Friday. “We’re excited about letting our fans see that.’’

The thing is, Smith might have a valid point. The Bucs lost their first two games of the season at home. They then went on a three-game road swing that included a win at Pittsburgh and a close loss at New Orleans. The Bucs have shown improvement the last two weeks.

“I think most of you know me well enough to see that I feel real good about our football team,’’ Smith said. “I know what our record says. Before those wins come, you have to take care of some other things. I realize how many penalties [15] we had this past week, but that’s not who we are.’’

The Bucs also are getting some injured players back. Middle linebacker Mason Foster, who missed the last three games with a shoulder injury, is expected to play against Baltimore. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) have been playing through injuries and they’re getting close to being at full strength. The offense has looked better with quarterback Mike Glennon playing for an injured Josh McCown.

“I see progress,’’ Smith said. “We’re getting healthier. This is probably as close to the team that we started the season off with as we’ve had in a while. We’re playing better ball in so many areas. Offensively, I’m pleased with what we’ve done the last couple of weeks. We’ve put plenty of points on the board. We’ve protected the football for the most part. Defensively, we haven’t played our best ball, but that’s coming. Getting a few of our players back and No. 1 our Mike linebacker should help that. My glass is half full each week, but I think this is as close as we’ve been.’’

Know the enemy: Joe Flacco

October, 10, 2014
Oct 10
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Baltimore player the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were talking about most as they get ready for Sunday’s game with the Ravens was quarterback Joe Flacco.

Flacco, who has a Super Bowl title under his belt, is off to a solid start this season. He’s completing 62.3 percent of his passes for 1,290 yards with seven touchdowns and three interceptions.

Here is a sampling of what the Bucs had to say about Flacco:

Defensive end Michael Johnson: "You just have to go, you react. You can’t go out there thinking. You have to read your keys and go. Everything goes from there. He’s a big quarterback, he’s strong, he’s a lot more athletic than people give him credit for, he does a great job of getting the ball down the field, and when he has time, he throws a great deep ball. You don’t want to give him that time to be able to set up and do that. Also he’s got some escapability, I’ve seen him get away from a lot people, it looks you got him and he was able to get away from them, so we have to do a good job of getting to him and getting him down."

Cornerback Alterraun Verner: "He’s a steady quarterback. To me he’s one of the most consistent quarterbacks, you don’t ever see him have just a terrible day I feel like. I feel he always puts his guys in positions to make plays and he manages the game really well. I wouldn’t say he’s a game-manager when I say that, but I say he doesn’t really make too many mistakes, and that’s one thing that I see about Joe Flacco, you can tell that he has a strong presence in that huddle and people respect him and they expect him to lead. Those are the characteristics I see from him."

W2W4: Buccaneers at Saints

October, 4, 2014
Oct 4
Five things to watch in Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New Orleans Saints:

Mike Glennon: The second-year quarterback will make his second straight start. He is coming off an impressive game-winning drive in Pittsburgh. Glennon had some success with the deep ball, something the Bucs weren’t getting much of with Josh McCown in the first three games. The Bucs don’t want Glennon in a shootout with Drew Brees, but they will try to take advantage of his big arm and take some shots down the field.

The running game: The best way to avoid the shootout with Brees is to have a strong running game. The Bucs haven’t run the ball very well so far. But Doug Martin is healthy after missing two games with a knee injury. The Bucs are likely to try to establish Martin early.

The pass rush: The defensive front four showed some signs of life in last week’s win against Pittsburgh. The Bucs recorded five sacks against the Steelers. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive end Michael Johnson both are playing through injuries, but have been productive. Brees isn’t an easy quarterback to sack because he gets rid of the ball quickly. But the Bucs need to put some pressure on Brees and knock him off his favorite launching spots.

The secondary: The Bucs have a lot invested in their secondary. But the defensive backfield has yet to produce much in the way of results. That needs to change against the Saints. The Bucs have been credited with only five passes defended. The secondary needs to start getting its hands on some footballs.

Lavonte David: The linebacker has played well, but he hasn’t made any of the big plays he made last season. David is the Bucs’ best player after McCoy, and he needs a big game for this defense to slow Brees. David has to make a play or two as pass defender or a rusher.
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Buccaneers class of free agents had been pretty quiet early in the season. But that changed Sunday.

Defensive end Michael Johnson came through with two sacks and a forced fumble that set up a touchdown. Johnson did exactly what the Bucs envisioned when they brought him in as a free agent from Cincinnati.

“What we brought him here to do: rush the passer," coach Lovie Smith said Monday. “But not just rush the passer; play the run. You look at just about every one of his plays -- to me, as I look at a player, every time you get an opportunity to strip the football, we want you going for the ball. Michael is doing that for the most part. I just liked his overall play. He tweaked his ankle a little bit early. Got rolled up again. Wasn’t lucky with that, but shook it off, came back in. We’ll need play like that from Michael throughout.”

Even before getting his ankle rolled up on, Johnson had been playing with a sprained ankle. Perhaps the most impressive thing he’s done so far is play through injury.

“Michael Johnson has played injured throughout the season,’’ Smith said. “ I wouldn’t say that he was 100 percent yesterday, but he really showed up, he played well, got one of our highest grades we give from a performance and I’m really pleased with him.’’

Makes you wonder what Johnson can do when he gets back to full strength.

Rapid Reaction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday at Heinz Field.

What it means: This was Tampa Bay’s biggest victory in several years. After three losses that led to doubt that Lovie Smith had a winning formula, the Bucs validated their coach. This was the kind of victory that can mark a turning point for a franchise. The Bucs are 1-3, but they suddenly have something to build on. They showed they can beat a good team on the road, and that’s a reason why there is hope for the future.

Stock watch: Defensive end Michael Johnson is playing through an ankle injury and the Bucs are limiting his playing time. But Johnson made the most of it. He had two sacks and forced a fumble.

Costly injury: Rookie receiver Mike Evans was having the best day of his young career. But he injured his groin on a third-quarter play that resulted in an interception. Evans did not return to the game.

Game ball: Second-year quarterback Mike Glennon started in place of the injured Josh McCown and he led the game-winning drive. Glennon showed plenty of poise in a hostile environment. McCown might not get the starting job back from Glennon.

What’s next: The Bucs conclude a three-game road swing next Sunday at New Orleans.

W2W4: Buccaneers at Steelers

September, 28, 2014
Sep 28
Three things to watch in Sunday’s game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Pittsburgh Steelers:

Mike Glennon: The second-year quarterback is starting in place of the injured Josh McCown, and that might not be a bad thing for the Bucs. They have struggled to get their offense going this season. There has been virtually no downfield passing game. But Glennon has a big arm and he might be able to find receivers Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans deep, and that could give the offense a spark.

Doug Martin: The running back is returning after missing the past two games with a knee injury. For the Bucs and Glennon to have any chance, Martin has to be able to run the ball with some consistency. He had only 9 rushing yards on nine carries in the season opener. But the offensive line has improved since then, so Martin should have a chance.

The Tampa Bay pass rush: It has been virtually non-existent so far. The Bucs have only four sacks, and that is not going to work in a Lovie Smith defense that is supposed to bring plenty of pressure from the front four. Gerald McCoy and Michael Johnson, the team’s top two pass-rushers, have been dealing with injuries. But this unit has to find a way to create more pressure on Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Mason Foster to sit out for Bucs

September, 26, 2014
Sep 26
TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ injury report is out and there are no surprises.

As expected, it looks like the Bucs will be without the quarterback of their offense and defense. Middle linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) was declared out for Sunday’s game at Pittsburgh. Dane Fletcher is expected to start in Foster's place for the second straight week. The Bucs also are listing quarterback Josh McCown (thumb) as doubtful, but all indications are that McCown won't play and Mike Glennon will start.

Defensive end Larry English (hamstring) also was declared out. Defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) is listed as questionable.

The rest of the injury report is pretty encouraging. Running back Doug Martin (knee), defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand), tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive end William Gholston (shoulder) and wide receiver Vincent Jackson (wrist) are listed as probable.

Buccaneers trying to stay positive

September, 22, 2014
Sep 22
TAMPA, Fla. -- They are coming off a 56-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and are off to an 0-3 start. So where do the Tampa Bay Buccaneers turn from here?

"We can’t see 0-4," offensive tackle Demar Dotson said. "I don’t want to see 0-4. This football team doesn’t want to see 0-4. It’s going to be a big challenge for us to go out there. Can we beat Pittsburgh? Yeah, we can, but it starts today."

Coach Lovie Smith has taken some criticism for the bad start, but Dotson said that is not where the blame belongs.

"This ain’t on Lovie," Dotson said. "When you come out there on the field, the players have to play. The players didn’t play. It’s not on Lovie. He did everything he could to prepare us. It’s all on us. We didn’t play good enough."

The mood in the locker room was surprisingly upbeat as the Bucs got ready to practice after having the weekend off.

"Tough times don’t last," free safety Dashon Goldson said. "Tough people do. I’m a firm believer in that."

Defensive end Michael Johnson, who has been dealing with an ankle injury, might have been the most optimistic of the players that spoke to the media.

"Everybody has to stay positive, keep believing and just trust in the system and trust the guys around you and the work and effort we’re putting in," said Johnson, who said his ankle is improving. "It’s going to turn in our favor. You’ll see. We’ll get this going. When we get it rolling it will be like clockwork. I’m excited to get to that point, but it’s a process."

I wouldn’t expect to hear anything else out of the locker room. Players have pride and they want to stop the losing. But there also is a cold, hard fact that needs to be pointed out.

If history is any indicator, the Bucs have a 2.5 percent chance of making the playoffs. According to ESPN Stats & Information, there have been 121 teams to start 0-3 since 1990. Of all those teams, only three have made the playoffs.
TAMPA, Fla. – Bucs All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy officially is listed as questionable for Thursday night’s game in Atlanta.

McCoy has a broken hand, but there’s some reason for optimism after he took part in Wednesday’s practice on a limited basis. McCoy and coach Lovie Smith have said a game-day decision will be made.

Linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins have been declared out. Defensive end Michael Johnson (ankle) and running back Doug Martin (knee) are listed as questionable.

Bobby Rainey to start for Doug Martin

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
TAMPA, Fla. -- As expected, Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Doug Martin will sit out Sunday’s game with St. Louis due to a knee injury.

Martin had practiced on a limited basis Thursday and Friday and was listed as questionable. In Martin’s absence, Bobby Rainey is expected to get the start. But Mike James also should get playing time.

Aside from Martin, the other inactives for the Bucs are cornerback Rashaan Melvin, tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, defensive end Michael Johnson, tackle Kevin Pamphile, guard Rishaw Johnson and guard Kadeem Edwards.

With Johnson out and Adrian Clayborn going on injured reserve Friday, the Bucs are expected to use Da’Quan Bowers and William Gholston as their starting defensive ends.

Bucs' Mankins, Martin questionable

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12
TAMPA, Fla. – The news on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ injury front for Sunday is mixed.

Let’s start with the good news: Running back Doug Martin and guard Logan Mankins each practiced for the second straight day. They’re listed as questionable, but coach Lovie Smith sounded optimistic about their chances of playing against St. Louis. Defensive end William Gholston also practiced fully after being limited Thursday and is listed as questionable. Defensive lineman Da’Quan Bowers participated fully and is listed as probable.

But the bad news is that defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins have been declared as out for Sunday.

Rams vs. Buccaneers preview

September, 12, 2014
Sep 12

It's tough to call the second game of the season a "must-win" situation. But that might not be far off what the St. Louis Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers are facing this week.

Both teams are coming off embarrassing losses that could set the tone for disastrous seasons. But a victory in Week 2 could save a season -- at least for the moment.

ESPN Rams reporter Nick Wagoner and Buccaneers reporter Pat Yasinskas take a look at this matchup:

Yasinskas: Nick, let's cut right to the chase. Are the Rams as bad as they looked against the Vikings in the opener?

Wagoner: I don't think the Rams are as bad as they were in Week 1, but I can understand why some might view it that way. That isn't to say this team just had an off-day and is about to string 15 wins together. The issue in Week 1 boiled down to the Rams failing to do the things they believe they will do well this year. Namely, this is a team built to run the ball to set up play-action on offense and dominate defensively, but they didn't control the line of scrimmage well enough on either side of the ball to do that. On paper, this looked like an offensive line that could be really good if everyone is healthy -- but even healthy, it looked like an aging group unable to block basic four-man rushes.

Still, I expect the Rams to be more competitive this week, so long as they have veteran quarterback Shaun Hill back from a quad injury.

I suppose the best option now is to redirect back at you: The Bucs disappointed in Week 1 against a backup quarterback, and either way, they're going to see another this week against the Rams. Are they as bad as they showed against the Panthers? How do they bounce back?

Yasinskas: The Bucs were horrible offensively for more than three quarters. Their defense, which is supposed to be a strong point, wasn't much better against Carolina backup Derek Anderson. There weren't a lot of good things to come out of the opener, and I'm not trying to make it out to be more than it was. But the Bucs did score 14 points in the fourth quarter, and they made it a game. It took a long time, but their offense finally showed some rhythm in the fourth and they had a chance to win at the end. Maybe this offense isn't that good, or maybe it just took some time to get things going in the right direction.

I know hopes were high with Sam Bradford, and that all changed with his injury. How much of a difference will it make if Hill is able to play?

Wagoner: Let's be honest here: It's not like the Rams are choosing from a quarterback trio of Elway, Marino and Montana. But of the three they have on the roster, it's pretty clear Hill gives them the best chance to win at this point. He's a steady hand and actually got off to a pretty good start against the Vikings last week before a dropped screen pass and a bad throw that resulted in an interception just before the half. For what it's worth, Jeff Fisher said Hill was trying to throw that ball away but couldn't get it out of bounds because of the quad.

Either way, the Rams need Hill under center because the options behind him -- Austin Davis and Case Keenum -- simply aren't going to get the job done. Of course, it won't matter who is under center if the offensive line doesn't perform better than it did the past week. That group has to give Hill time to throw and open some holes in the run game for this offense to have any chance of success against that Tampa defense.

Speaking of that defense, Lovie Smith once coordinated the group in St. Louis, and we all have a pretty good idea of what he likes to do. But now that he's back with the Bucs as the head coach, what are some wrinkles he's bringing to the table, and how good can that group be with guys such as Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David in the system?

Yasinskas: McCoy and David are two excellent cornerstones around which to build the defense. But as we found out against Carolina, the Bucs need more than that. The key to a Smith defense is getting pressure from the front four, and the Bucs didn't do that against the Panthers. They came up with one sack (by McCoy) and got no pressure on the outside. Defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Michael Johnson have talent, but they have to be more productive for Smith's defense to really work. If the defense gets pressure, the turnovers will flow. If it doesn't get pressure, the defense will be nothing more than ordinary. McCoy and David are the stars of the defense, but the Bucs need Clayborn and Johnson to really make things click.

Tampa Bay's offensive line is a huge question, and the Bucs might be without injured guard Logan Mankins. Like any quarterback, Josh McCown is going to struggle if he's pressured. Are the Rams capable of putting a lot of pressure on McCown? If so, that will stall Tampa Bay's offense.

Wagoner: The strength of the Rams' defense is certainly found in the front four and the pass rush in general. Of course, that wasn't all that evident this past week against Minnesota. The Vikings only allowed one sack, and that came because of a botched snap. But Minnesota had a good game plan and made it a point to get the ball out quickly, which negated the Rams' pass rush. In fact, Vikings quarterback Matt Cassel averaged the fewest air yards per attempt of any quarterback in Week 1.

The Bucs know exactly what the Rams' pass rush can do after Robert Quinn gave them all kinds of headaches in the past year's meeting. But the Rams have to be better in coverage on underneath stuff if they want their pass rush to take off as it should.

McCown had some success throwing against the Rams last year when he was with the Bears, and the Bucs have a couple big, physical receivers on the outside. If things are going how the Bucs want, what type of challenges do they present to the Rams' defense?

Yasinskas: Let's assume for a second the offensive line plays a decent game. If that's the case, McCown will have time to throw, and he has some nice targets to work with. Vincent Jackson, Mike Evans and Austin Seferian-Jenkins are all at least 6-foot-5. That creates all sorts of matchup problems for a secondary. Evans and Seferian-Jenkins are only rookies, but they can be impact players. Jackson is a proven receiver who probably doesn't get the recognition he deserves.

But like I said, the offensive line will be the key. If McCown has time to throw, he can be an efficient quarterback. If he doesn't have time, he'll show why he's been a backup most of his career.

Martin, Mankins return to practice

September, 11, 2014
Sep 11
TAMPA, Fla. -- There was good news on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' injury front Thursday.

Running back Doug Martin and guard Logan Mankins returned to practice after missing Wednesday’s session with knee injuries. Coach Lovie Smith said Martin and Mankins practiced on a limited basis and sounded optimistic they will be able to play Sunday against St. Louis.

Smith wasn’t as optimistic about defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Rashaan Melvin and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. All three have ankle injuries and were held out of practice for the second straight day.

Stock watch: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

September, 8, 2014
Sep 8
Checking the stock of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after their season-opening 20-14 loss to the Carolina Panthers:


Offensive line: This group wasn’t off to a great start, and then things got worse. Guard Logan Mankins went down with a knee injury. It appears as if Mankins will miss some time, and that’s going to throw the line into disarray.

Josh McCown: He didn’t play the way you would expect from a veteran quarterback and made two bad decisions that turned into interceptions. McCown rallied in the fourth quarter, but it was too little too late. The Bucs need him to be sharp the entire game.

The pass rush: Where was it? The Bucs produced only one sack against Derek Anderson, who was playing for an injured Cam Newton. Michael Johnson and Adrian Clayborn have to be more productive as outside rushers.


Gerald McCoy: He had Tampa Bay’s only sack and played well against the run.

Chris Owusu: He caught a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. There was some question in the preseason about who the third receiver would be, but it looks like that job belongs to Owusu.

Lavonte David: He had a team-high 10 tackles.