Secret Superstar: Leonard Johnson

June 13th, 2013

The numbers-crunching, TV-football-watching crowd at Pro Football Focus resumes a series where they look at each NFL team’s sophomore players and try to figure out which second-year player can have a breakout season.

After pouring over the Bucs’ roster, Peter Damilatis has come to believe that Bucs cornerback Leonard Johnson could have a breakout 2013.

Despite the name of this series, it would be a bit of a stretch to say that Johnson was a true superstar last season. Aside from the large responsibilities he had, he also made mistakes that will cost him in the future if he doesn’t correct them. With 10 missed tackles on defense and special teams, he may need to bulk up his 5-foot-10, 200 pound-frame to avoid slipping off ballcarriers. But as Rahim Moore showed us this season, poor tackling is certainly correctable for young players.

To fully reach his potential this season, Johnson will have to earn back his starting spot first. Newcomer Revis will likely be on one side, but the other starting spot is there for the taking. Wright was nearly released if not for a drastic pay cut, and Johnson’s experience last season gives him a slight edge on fellow youngsters Johnthan Banks and Anthony Gaitor. A year after going undrafted, Johnson’s has shown success as a starter and could have a clear path back to that position. On a roster already brimming with young talent, don’t be surprised if he soon earns the notoriety of his 2012 classmates.

Joe can’t quibble with a lot of what Damilatis types, but here is where the proclamation runs into problem: For Johnson to have a breakout year, a lot must go wrong for the Bucs. For Johnson to shine this much, that tells Joe that either Darrelle Revis can’t come back from his knee injury, or Eric Wright stinks, or Johnthan Banks struggles mightily and/or one of the two gets hurt.

That’s not very reassuring to Joe, as much as he would love to see Johnson develop so well.

23 Responses to “Secret Superstar: Leonard Johnson”

  1. Bobby Says:

    The other scenario is that Johnson can just flat out ball and wins the starting job opposite Revis. This is not out of the realm of possibility. Why is it always that someone else has to stink and not that Johnson could just establish himself as being good enough to start?? Doesn’t seem like you thought this one out too clearly Joe. The bottom doesn’t have to fall out with everyone else for a guy to take the next step. Look at Sherman with Seattle. Not a high draft pick but he can play. Johnson showed similar flashes last season and may very well take the next step this season. Who knows but I think Schiano will start the BEST DB’s and not just the order they were drafted or whatever. I personally think that will be Banks but we’ll see. At any rate I think Johnson, Wright and Gaitor provide great depth.

  2. Biff Barker Says:

    Solid take Joe with the exception that if LJ outplays Wright. No great loss there.
    By early accounts, Banks is bidding to start on the outside leaving nickel and dime between LJ and Wright.
    Either way, the depth will surelu be better than last year.

  3. Biff Barker Says:

    Agree, its not zero sum math here. If LJ has a brilliant year, it doesn’t have to mean Banks was a bad pick.

  4. BucsfaninChina Says:

    Great guy, very modest player who you can tell WANTS to be great and is making the most of his time with Revis. Nothing would make me happier than to see him steal #2 CB and run Wright outta town.

  5. Illuminati Says:

    I’ve heard LJ has looked pretty good in OTAs and minicamp so far. I’ve heard Keith Tandy has looked pretty good too.

  6. Buc-n-Junkie Says:

    Under Tony Oden, Jeff Hafley, Darrelle Revis, Eric Wright, and Dashon Goldson’s tutelage, how can he not get better in his sophomore year. Unless they are all sleep-walking, even the rest of the younger DB’s should get better. Even the much maligned Myron Lewis…. 🙂

  7. Buc-n-Junkie Says:

    I hope all the young DB’s are superstars at the end of the season!!

  8. teacherman777 Says:

    He was a great signing. Willing tackler. Humble dude. Hard worker. Very strong body. But just a little slow with short arms.

    Eric Wright is in a contract year and he knows it.

    He has one uear to put up some good film or he will retire at 29.

    I am hoping this will motivate him.

    With motivation he is, as he said, “an exceptional talent.”

    Wright will start, and Leonard and Banks will be our #3 and #4 with Gorrer and Gaitor and maybe Carr as our #5 and # 6 with Carr on the practice squad.

    Wright gives us the best chance to win the super bowl.

    If he plays up to his talent.

    Anybody else elated to have 3 backups who can ball!!?

    I am!

  9. BrianDorry55 Says:

    Well…one of your scenarios has already come into play…Eric Wright stinks.

  10. Joe Says:

    This is not out of the realm of possibility. Why is it always that someone else has to stink and not that Johnson could just establish himself as being good enough to start?? Doesn’t seem like you thought this one out too clearly Joe.


    The NFL is not college where all players are graded on an equal floor. The Bucs have far, far more money invested in Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks. Those guys are going to get every opportunity to sink or swim on their own.

    Leonard Johnson is a great story. Joe’s known him for years and all things being equal, it would be cool to see him get to a Pro Bowl. But the Bucs have virtually no cash invested in Johnson, a rookie free agent-signee.

    But for Johnson to be able to log enough snaps to be able to have such a breakout season, that means Revis and Banks are not getting the snaps and why would that be? Because they are either hurt or are getting lit up (or both).

    Joe doesn’t know anyone that would suggest Revis and/or Banks not being able to hold their own is a good thing.

    You know why Myron Lewis continues to stain the Bucs’ roster? Because the team has cash invested in him, that’s why.

  11. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    Johnson will not be a starter unless there are injuries. He would have to leapfrog both Banks and Wright.

    Banks was drafted to be a starter. Wright is no longer injured and looking to prove himself. He’ll play much better this year.

    However…if he ended up with starting potential, he might save us money in a year or two, or become trade bait.

  12. Tim Says:

    I have been saying this for awhile now. LJ has potential star ability, he just needs a little more time. I think he is perfect to start in the nickel slot this year and possibly in the future move outside (do to injury or simply out playing someone) He has a good build and skill set for the nickel and if I were him I would be on the phone with Ronde as much as possible.

  13. Bobby Says:

    “The NFL is not college where all players are graded on an equal floor. The Bucs have far, far more money invested in Darrelle Revis and Johnthan Banks. Those guys are going to get every opportunity to sink or swim on their own.”

    I would have to disagree. If that were the case then there would be no Donald Penn’s or any other undrafted or low draft picks starting over higher draft picks. Just look to New Orleans and Ingram. That dude has been riding the pine because there is someone better than he is starting. I believe Schiano when he says he is going to start the BEST players, not the highest drafted players. That leaves LJ or any other DB we have on the roster a chance to win the starting job. It will not necessarily mean that Banks or Wright suck, it will just mean that LJ won the starting job because he is better. You can’t see that happening?? Richard Sherman, a 5th round pick, won the job in Seattle. Happens all the time. It’s not always about the money but it is always about winning and you field the best players who give you a chance to do that.

  14. 94b91u93c54s59 Says:

    My question is this, how do you rank our cb’s in terms of their ability to man/press cover? IMO Revis Banks LJ Wright, never saw Gaitor press last year and Gorrer is horrible if you ask me.

  15. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    “For Johnson to have a breakout year, a lot must go wrong for the Bucs.”

    -This comment is wrong on so many levels. I’m seriously shocked right now -that you have made it to be honest. The game we all love… Is built on the fabric of Competition Sir. No matter where you from-race-creed-or color. The Best 53 make a team. They Compete on Sunday to see who’s the best.

    -Warren Moon,Kurt Warner,Priest Holmes,Antonio Gates,Arian Foster,Adam Vinatieri, and Jeff Saturday. Made their teams better, helped their prospective organizations wine games. Coach Schiano recently has said he doesn’t care who wins that battle at corner. So how is this a bad thing?

    “And while the law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, it is best for the race, because it ensures the survival of the fittest in every department.”
    -Andrew Carnegie

    “The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.”
    -Colin Powell

    “The ultimate victory in competition is derived from the inner satisfaction of knowing that you have done your best and that you have gotten the most out of what you had to give.”
    -Howard Cosell

    There should be a certain amount of competition in life because it would help to hone our skills and emerge better and better. Imagine a race in sports without a competitor and what satisfaction you get if you are awarded the winner? Losing in a competition does not matter as long as you take part in the competition. Competition exists everywhere, in all walks of life, in sports, in education, in business and in arts. Competition is the catalyst that drives you to the pinnacle of glory and helps to sustain the fire in your heart.

  16. Mike J Says:

    I have been following this PFF series & wondering whom PFF would come up with for Los Bucos. I suspected maybe Zuttah. It has been Michael Bennett & Quincy Black in the past IIRC.

  17. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    IMO our depth chart at corner:

    24 Revis, Darrelle
    29 Johnson, Leonard
    27 Banks, Johnthan
    36 Gorrer, Danny
    33 Carr, Deveron
    39 Smith, Branden

    Eric Wright is Trade Bait-

    Will be released unless someone gets hurt
    31 Lewis, Myron
    26 Gaitor, Anthony

  18. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Forgot about -(Melvin, Rashaan CB 6-2)…We got some real good competition at corner this year

  19. Joe Says:


    So right now you are saying it will be a good thing for the Bucs if, say, Revis can’t come back from his injury and Johnthan Banks proves to be a colossal bust? Seriously?

    If that happens there will be some serious head-rolling at One Buc Palace and it very well could mean the Bucs start all over again with a new regime.

    How exactly is that a good thing?

  20. Fish Says:

    I’m with the other guys in regard to this post, Joe…

    LJ starting playing up to a level of starting doesn’t necessarily mean we’re in bad shape. He’s shown the ability to be a solid starter. If he beats out some of the guys that “should” be starting, then more power to him. It just shows that he’s good enough to play in a solid secondary.

    In contrast to a previous post of yours, I’ll repeat my stance: we have SOLID depth at corner right now whether you believe it or not. Our 4th corner could easily end up being a starter. That’s an indication of solid depth.

  21. Fish Says:

    Just to back up that last post –

    LJ showed the potential to be a starter in his ROOKIE year without much help around him, and he’s probably our 4th best guy with a handful of young and talented guys behind him.

  22. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    My repugnance with your rather bold statement- “ “For Johnson to have a breakout year, a lot must go wrong for the Bucs.”Leaves me at a lost that’s all. I’ve followed your blog since inception, and I’ve never know of you to make such a careless statement.

    *20% of 1,696 NFL “STARTERS” entered the league as undrafted free agents. Throughout history,14 Undrafted free agents have gone on to be enshrined in Canton-Countless All-Pro & Pro Bowl selections. And yes sir, plenty of Super Bowl rings.

    Leonard Johnson, dove into his play book last year. Impressed the coaches enough to give him starters minutes. And even though he clearly struggled, you seen noticeable improvement as the season progressed. This kid’s an exceptionally sound tackler, and a pretty good damn bump & run/man corner.

    And right now, as much as I like the Johnthan Banks pick-He not acclimated to the playbook yet. So I can easily see how LJ starts opposite of Revis; with Banks as the 3rd corner.

  23. scubog Says:

    Leonard Johnson is a great story being a local kid with such a great attitude as compared to Eric Wright who quickly got out of favor with fans from his “unexplained illness” in last year’s Training Camp to the Adderal issue/suspension. But lets not get ahead of ourselves and judge by our personal preference as to who wins the jobs in our vastly improved secondary. Perhaps both.