Now that we are deep into the NFL offseason, let’s go back and take a look at the Tech players who performed the best on the field last season. I believe the most informative and exciting way to do this is to make a Top 10 list, counting down from 10 to 1. I’ll post one player a day for the next ten weekdays, so make sure to keep up and share your opinions by commenting below. The next player we are going to talk about and the number three player on this list is Michael Johnson, a DE for the Bengals.
Michael Johnson was drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Bengals. He has played all 4 years of his career with Cincy, developing into a very good DE. In his first two seasons, he had 3 sacks and 2.5 sacks respectively. Then like most young DEs in the league, he started to show signs of promise. In his third season, he had 6 sacks and 42 tackles. This was a nice improvement from his 2010 season, and really excited the Bengals fan base. Last year, Johnson really performed well, starting in all 16 games and tallying 52 tackles and 11.5 sacks (one behind the team lead). His impressive performance in 2012 forced the Bengals to franchise tag him, since they did not want to lose a potential game-changing DE.
Some might worry that Johnson had a big year in the final year of his contract, but I don’t see this as an issue. He has shown gradual improvement over the last two years that lead me to believe his game is a product of excellent coaching. He has also benefitted from playing next to Geno Atkins, who has turned into arguably the best 4-3 DT in the NFL. Playing next to another great player helps alleviate blocks and lets him focus on rushing the passer.
Johnson will be on a one year contract going into next year since he was franchised, and I expect him to have another excellent year. The Bengals need him to have another double digit sack year to make sure they can keep up with the Ravens in their division. I don’t see him changing in the rankings next year however, unless he can post at least 15 sacks on the season and get his team deep into the playoffs. The two players that are currently ahead of him are in their prime and are playing at All-Pro levels, so he has his work cut out for him. With that said, Johnson has turned into one of the best young 4-3 DEs in the league and is in an excellent position to improve on last season’s impressive numbers. Below are the rankings so far.
#10 Vance Walker- Atlanta Falcons
#9 Jonathan Dwyer- Pittsburgh Steelers
#8 Dawan Landry- Jacksonville Jaguars
#7 Derrick Morgan- Tennessee Titans
#6 Daryl Smith- Jacksonville Jaguars
#5 Philip Wheeler- Oakland Raiders
#4 Morgan Burnett- Green Bay Packers
Stats from ESPN.com.