Clearwater's Leonard Johnson savors start at cornerback
Clearwater native Leonard Johnson couldn't help but be wide-eyed when he started Friday's Bucs preseason game against the Patriots.
But for a moment, things got overwhelming for the undrafted rookie cornerback out of Iowa State.
"I'm out there thinking, 'Wait, that's Tom Brady over there,' " Johnson said of quarterback and two-time Super Bowl MVP. "I've been watching him since I was a kid. I was kind of in awe of the whole situation. But I had to snap out of that and play ball. You have to focus."
The former Largo High star did that, combining with safety Mark Barron to stuff RB Stevan Ridley for no gain on New England's first possession. He was the third cornerback as the Bucs began the game in a nickel package (five defensive backs).
Johnson had some miscues, too, such as pass interference against WR Brandon Lloyd during the third quarter.
But he has a legitimate shot to make the team. Third-year CB Myron Lewis has cooled off after a hot start to training camp. E.J. Biggers remains sidelined with a broken left foot, and Anthony Gaitor missed Friday's game with a hamstring injury.
Starting the game "meant a lot," Johnson said. "It just lets me know that the coaches trust me to go out there and do my job. I learned what I have to adjust. And I realize that everything that I need to improve is stuff that can be fixed. It's small stuff: technique, reads, things that are going to put me in a position to make plays."
|About the writer|
Stephen F Holder has been writing additional Buccaneer features and daily blog reports on the team for several seasons now for The Tampa Bay Times.