On December 9th the Patriots claimed former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Leonard Johnson. Johnson started at Nickle Corner for the Bucs a good part of the last three years until he was placed on IR and waived by his hometown team on December 3rd. Belichick clearly sees something in the former undrafted free agent like he has in so many other players including Malcolm Butler, Wes Welker, and Danny Amendola. This not to mention using his 6th round, 199th overall pick on the greatest to ever play, Tom Brady himself. Belichick clearly has an eye for finding diamonds in the rough and so far so good for Leonard Johnson.
Johnson made his Pats debut last Sunday against the Texans, just 6 days after being added to the teams 53 man roster. His stat sheet for this game looks pretty impressive with 2 passes defended on only 3 targets, the third of which was completed for -1 yard. More importantly, it was his work outside of quantitative stats where his game stood out. Johnson played like he was grateful to be out on the field after his second major injury in his 3 year career and like he had something to prove. He seemed to be everywhere, taking out a not-so-key blocker on a run play that was already blown up at the line in just his second snap of the game. He was excited to get his nose in the play and frankly, run into somebody.
Johnson also brings a swagger to the defense that we haven’t seen since Aqib Talib left town. It’s a type of energy that really agitates offenses and fires up the rest of his teammates. His celebration dance after making a great play to get around a Houston receiver to play the ball without drawing a penalty on a key 3rd down is already winning over many Pats fans.
I have a feeling we can see Johnson really make a difference for this team in January and hopefully San Fransico in February. It’s yet another Belichick low risk, high reward experiment that will really pay dividends. I look forward to watching this player every week and seeing him become yet another unlikely hero for the Patriots.