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Derrick Johnson Oakland Raiders

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Derrick Johnson Brings Plenty to Raiders Defense

Derrick Johnson Brings Plenty to Raiders Defense

While Raider Nation was hoping the team would re-sign Navorro Bowman, the team instead signed rival Kansas City’s career tackle leader Derrick Johnson. But does he have much left in the tank? We explore.

After failing to come to a contract agreement with free agent linebacker Nav0rro Bowman this offseason, Raiders head coach Jon Gruden turned his attention to a name all too familiar to Raider fans everywhere – Derrick Johnson.

The former Kansas City Chiefs linebacker leaves with his former team’s record for career tackles. In his 13 seasons Derrick Johnson totaled 1,151 of them while also amassing 27.5 sacks, 22 forced fumbles, eight fumble recoveries, 77 pass deflections, 14 interceptions, and four touchdowns.

The good news for Raider fans is he is not done yet.

“The main reason I’m still playing ball and chasing a championship ring is I believe I have a lot left,” Johnson said in a conference call Wednesday. “I have a lot left in the tank, and that’s the only reason I’m back. When I get to a point where I’m like, ‘Man, I’m hanging on,’ I’ll get out. I’ll get out of the NFL. But right now, and I expressed this to coach Gruden, I wasn’t interested in some type of rebuilding type of atmosphere. As soon as I said that, he had that look in his eye.”

Derrick Johnson is not someone who should be taken lightly. He suffered the second achilles tear of his career in week 14 of the 2016 season, ironically against the Raiders. Despite being 34 years old at the time, he would play in Kansas City’s first preseason game which was less than eight months later.

Johnson’s biggest asset to the team could very well never show up directly on film or a stat sheet. That sheer focus and determination it took to get back on the field will hopefully be passed on to the Raiders young line backing corps. If he does nothing else, he will get those guys working.

I jumped into his tape from last season to get a look at Johnson’s burst at the snap. I wanted see how he had recovered from his injury and I was quite surprised at how well he moved.

This clip may not look like much until you notice how Johnson’s speed beats New England’s blocking scheme on this run. The slot wide receiver comes into the frame late. He was supposed to “crack” block Johnson but he was too quick off of the snap. Johnson “eats grass” and cuts the pulling tackle forcing the ball carrier back inside to his help.

A split second slower and Johnson would have been knocked back inside while the tackle and running back were able to break containment. His burst and instinct on this play turned a possible touchdown into a one-yard loss. Of course, stopping the run is important but how will he do in coverage? Again I was surprised by what I saw.

Johnson’s biggest asset to the team could very well never show up directly on film or a stat sheet. That sheer focus and determination it took to get back on the field will hopefully be passed on to the Raiders young line backing corps. If he does nothing else, he will get those guys working.

Even against a spread team like the New England Patriots, Johnson did not come off the field. I was really expecting to see him sub out in obvious passing situations, but there he was. Not only was he on the field but he played well.

Kansas City did play him in a “robber” role most of the game, meaning he played a short/middle zone. They did this to help defend those crossing routes the Patriots love. That doesn’t mean he didn’t find himself in man coverage situations.

On this play quarterback Tom Brady seemed to be fooled by the coverage. The Chiefs disguised this very well. They ended up rushing 3 and dropping their EDGE players into bracket coverage. Brady expected the slant ( the #1 ) to be open over the middle. When it wasn’t he threw the slot fade ( #2 ) which was also covered. He did not look to Johnson who was in man coverage at the bottom of the screen.

Of course and good offensive coordinator and quarterback will recognize their missed match up opportunity when they are going over the film on the sideline. Even though Johnson held up well in coverage on that play, you know they are going to come back to it and test him at some point.

Again they motion a running back into the flat hoping to have man coverage against a linebacker, which they got. While I don’t like the fade route here based on both field position as well as the cushion Johnson had shown on the last play, he does cover it perfectly. It would have been interesting to see how he would have held up against a slant given the open field inside and single high safety.

It is exciting to see him play so well 8 months after such a significant injury. Given a whole offseason to actually train instead of focusing on rehab should have him in even better shape. He gives the Raiders and new defensive coordinator Paul Guenther a good, experienced veteran to run their system on the field. If the defense can simply hit 15th in points and yards this season, and Gruden returns the offense to their 2016 glory, Derrick Johnson may just get that ring.

Chris Reed is the former Senior NFL analyst for Silver and Black Today.

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