The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have missed the playoffs six consecutive seasons in a row. The organization decided to give Greg Schiano a pink slip and brought in former Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith to right the ship.
Lovie Smith’s claim to fame is defense, and he is bringing the “Tampa 2 defense” back to the Buccaneers where the scheme became famous. Lovie Smith served as linebacker coach under, then head coach, Tony Dungy and defensive coordinator, Monte Kiffin.
In order to make the “Tampa 2″ effective you need to have solid pass rushers coming off of the edges.
The Buccaneers made an investment in order to bolster their pass rush when they signed former Georgia Tech defensive end Michael Johnson to a 5-year/$44 million deal in the offseason.
For the past five seasons the 6-foot-7, 260 pounder played with the Cincinnati Bengals for another defensive minded head coach in Marvin Lewis.
Johnson showed durability in Cincy playing in 79 out of a possible 80 games. His season in 2012 was the one that put him on the map when he recorded 11.5 sacks on the year.
Even though Johnson finished with 3.5 sacks in 2013, Lovie Smith is not too concerned about the drop in production. Smith prefers to look at what Johnson did two years ago as evidenced by the statement he made in a Yahoo.com article by Fred Goodall:
”To me I look at the ceiling. What’s the best a player has played, and with Michael, I’m going to go to that 11-sack year he had. And it’s not just sacks. He’s a a legitimate outside rusher, and we feel like he’s going to have a good year.”
The Bucs pass rush was suspect in 2013 only collecting 35 sacks on the year. Tampa Bay also has not had a defensive player finish with double-digit sacks since Simeon Rice in 2005.
Johnson knows that the expectations are going to be huge especially after signing the lucrative contract. He knows that production is the only thing that can justify Tampa Bay giving him the money that he signed for and he is setting his goals for 2014 accordingly.
He was quoted in that same Yahoo.com article as saying:
”I would like to get back to double digits. That’s the plan. I don’t see why not, I’m here to do whatever they ask me to do. It doesn’t matter to me how we get it done, we’re going to get it done, I’m excited to be here. I’m happy to be with my new teammates. I’m just ready to go to work.”
In the NFC South if you don’t have a pass rush you could be in some serious trouble. With the Bucs facing the likes of Drew Brees, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan twice a year, you are going to have to be able to rush the passer just to be competitive.
Michael Johnson sounds like he is ready for a big year in Tampa. However, the question is can he deliver?