Editor's Note: This outstanding FanPost deserves some recognition on the front page. I changed the layout a little and added a photo.
The slot corner position will be the most important position (other than QB) for the Buccaneers to succeed this year. It will be the most criticized and most looked upon position also all year. With the departure of Eric Wright, the Bucs will look towards second year corner Leonard Johnson to man down the slot corner position. With Revis on the field teams teams will be looking to attack the weakest link in Johnson. Coach Schiano likes his tools and he should be getting the nod week 1 vs the Jets. In this article I will be laying out the importance of the play of Leonard Johnson, and who he has to go up against. Again with Wright gone, it's time for Leonard Johnson to step up BIG.
Week 1 vs Jets
The Jets should be pretty kind to Leonard Johnson. The Jets have some receiver problems to say the least with Santonio Holmes possibly being out the beginning of the season (Grade 4 Lisfranc Fracture). They brought back receiver Braylon Edwards to help out and are looking to Stephen Hill as a deep threat. Then there is slot Jeremy Kerley who did have a productive year last year who had 56 recs with 827 yards. This is a receiver perfect for the Jets west coast offense, who gives them stability by short routes and can even break some long ones as well. Johnson should have some difficulty against Kerley's speed (4.56 40 yard dash) and small 5'9'' frame. If the Jets turn to Kerley as the number 2 receiver, Leonard Johnson should see Clyde Gates, who is coming into his second year, who was rarely used in 2012, having 16 recs for 224 yards. This should be a fairly easy day for Johnson and the Bucs.
Week 2/17 vs the Saints.
It's opening day at Ray Jay and Drew Brees can't deflate the atmosphere. We know Revis and Goldson will make sure that doesn't happen. Brees will study the tapes and do what he did to the Bucs last year at Raymond James. Lance Moore had 9 recs for 121 yards while Josh Freeman had the game of his life throwing for 420 yards and 3 touchdowns, resulting in a loss. This cannot happen again, Leonard Johnson has to control Lance Moore who will do the exact same thing if he doesn't step up. All it takes is one deep play which Brees is known for, or those dink and dunk passes in the middle of the field that costs the Bucs the game. We also know what happened at the Super Dome last year when Drew Brees lit the Bucs up 41-0. Moore had 4 receptions 41 yards and a TD that game as well. We know Brees and other quarterbacks will barley look towards Revis Island, and will prefer picking on Johnson, that is why I'm stressing this.
Week 3 vs Patriots.
Who wouldn't want to see the Bucs destroy the Patriots at Gillette Stadium?!? This could be the year with all the questions surrounding the Patriots receiving core. Tom Brady cannot beat us with this lack of depth in their offense. He won't attack Amendola with Revis on him, he could pick on rookie Jonathan Banks, but he is less appeasing than Leonard Johnson. Which means that leaves it to #29 again!! He should be seeing a mix of guys this game with the receiver depth the Patriots have. Johnson should be against Matthew Slater or rookie Aaron Dobson. Amendola and Edelman man the the first two corners while Slater and Dobson are in the slot. Slater is the special teams captain who only has 1 career reception for 46 yards, so Dobson should see more time then Slater. Johnson will have to keep up with Dobson out of Marshall (6'3''/ 210 lbs) who has a lightning quick 4.43 forty yard dash, compared to Leonard Johsnon's (5'10''/200lbs) 4.62 forty... Amendola will be playing the slot as well but certainly might have to play outside with his athleticism. The Patriots have a lot of questions with these receivers and how they will set up, but if Johnson does his job this week there shouldn't a problem getting a win. Johnson will see time playing outside corner and slot depending on their formation. The offense might be the reason the Bucs win this one, with the Patriots struggling on the defensive side of the ball... Note: The Patriots since 2001 are in the bottom half of the league while relying on rookie receivers.
Week 4 vs Cardinals (Throwback game).
When you think of the Cardinals you think of Larry Fitzgerald. Revis will be on him and Banks will be on Michael Floyd while slot should be Andre Roberts a 2010 third round draft pick. Roberts had a serviceable year in 2012 with 64 receptions 759 yards with 5 touchdowns. If the Bucs want to seriously compete, Leonard Johnson and the rest of the team should be elite this game on all sides of the ball. Lets win this game by halftime.
Week 6 vs Eagles
This will be Chip Kelly's 6th game in the NFL, and they could be rolling, or off the beaten path. The slot corner this game is not a huge importance as it is in many other weeks, so Leonard Johnson should be able to gain some confidence going into some tougher opponents. The Eagles are in more trouble with Jeremy Maclin's knee injury and are relying on DeSean Jackson heavily. Riley Cooper/Jason Avant should play more outside with Maclin injured. Leaving Damaris Johnson and Arrelious Benn to be the slot corner. The slot could be a mix of a lot of the Eagles receivers noted, so the Bucs will wait and see. Damaris Johnson didn't see the field a whole lot in 2012 but many people feel he is the best fit for Chip Kelly's style of play. He had 19 receptions for 256 yards in 2012. Jason Avant is the veteran in the slot for Philadelphia. He is the longest-tenured skill positioned player on the Eagles. He is a reliable guy who averaged 49 catches for 622 yards every year since 2009. He is a bigger guy with less speed than Jackson and Maclin, but he will get it done. Avant was targeted 71 times and caught 53 passes in 2012. He had 53 passes without a drop, by far the best in the league! This game the slot corner should see a variety of Damaris Johsnon and Jason Avant, two solid receivers. Who knows we might see a little of former Buc, Arrelious Benn.
Week 7/11 vs Falcons
This is a physical bunch that can wear any team out. Roddy White, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez lead the charge once again in 2013. Hopefully with Revis and Banks on the filed, Leonard Johnson doesn't have to go up against one of those big men like he did last year. There is also some protection up top with Goldson and sometimes Barron (who will be playing more in the box). This team will throw everything at the Bucs, intermediate routes, long routes (for sure), and short passes to newly acquired running back Steven Jackson/ Jacquizz Rodgers. Leonard Johnson has to play big both games. They are going to try to expose him as much as possible like they did last year. Harry Douglas looks to be the slot receiver for the Falcons, who is a legitimate threat to Johnson, as you can see from the first picture above. If Revis is going to be a lock down corner, and Banks a solid corner as well, they cannot make it go to waste if Leonard Johnson lets the Falcons win. The slot corner position is one of the most important positions for the Bucs to succeed. The defense will have its hands full against Atlanta.
Week 8/13 vs Panthers (TNF)
Leonard Johnson will be going against Domenik Hixon who had 39 receptions for 567 yards and two touchdowns in 2012 (with Giants). There is some other receivers fighting for that third spot like Ted Ginn and Kealoha Pilares. The first of two games vs Carolina will be home on Thursday Night Football, so its time to show what the Bucs and Leonard Johnson are all about.
Week 9 vs Seahawks
The chances are it won't be Percy Harvin (hip surgery) in the slot when the Bucs go to Seattle. If Seattle does goes to 3-WR sets (less likely with Harvin injured) this leaves Johnson to be on Doug Baldwin. Leonard Johnson vs Doug Baldwin is a fair match up both being 5'10'' but Baldwin could be explosive with his 4.48 forty time (compared to Johnson's 4.62). This shouldn't be a long day for Jonson because with Harvin out it takes a lot of pressure off the Bucs secondary, and switches its focus on Marshawn Lynch. In fact Johnson might not play a whole lot this game with the Bucs loading the box and blitzing. They will probably rely on Cover-1 man that they used a lot last year , with Goldson up top and Barron in the box. They could afford to do that because Revis could easily lock -down on Sidney Rice, and Banks has a size advantage on a smaller Golden Tate. In 2012 the Seahawks were 26th in the NFL in three-WR sets, that would likely stay the same with Harvin injured.
Week 10 vs Dolphins (MNF)
This is a pretty good team with Mike Wallace and Brian Hartline. The slot receiver will be Armon Binns or Brandon Gibson. Binns is in his second year who is (6'3''/ 211lbs) with a (4.53 forty). He had 24 receptions for 277 yards with 1 TD in 2012. The only threat he gives to Johnson is his big frame, but could be a talented receiver. Brandon Gibson last played for the Rams, who had 2 receptions for 33 yards against the Bucs at Raymond James. He had a total of 691 yards with 5TDs in 2012. Gibson is more experienced than than Binns but both should be used. Simply, Johnson needs to get the job done this week against sub par receivers.
Week 12 vs Lions
The slot corner job should be an easy one this week. With Revis manning down Calvin Johnson (Revis held C.Johnson to 13 yards total Novemebr 7, 2010) Stafford will pick try to pick on Leonard Johsnon. This is going to be a theme this whole year that is why Johnson/ any slot corner needs to step up BIG this year. Leonard Johnson will be going up against Ryan Broyles who had 22 recs for 310 yards and 2TDs. His long was a 40 yard pass so he could break one free. This seems like a fair match up to Leonard Johnson who are roughly the same size. Mike Thomas is fighting for a job as well. Thomas had his best year in 2012 with the Jaguars.
Week 14 vs Bills
Robert Woods a rookie out of USC is an instant favorite to start in two-receiver sets alongside Steve Johnson in Buffalo. When the Bills go to three wide-receiver sets Steve Johnson will go to slot and Robert Woods should become the Bills' favored outside target. Marcus Easley will play outside with Leonard Johnson. Easley 6'2'' 217lbs will be a good match-up for Johnson but by no means be a problem.
Week 15 vs 49ers
The 49ers are a very good team with considerable depth at receiver. Look for Mario Manningham to be in the slot when the 49ers go three wide. This should be a physical math-up between Johnson and Manningham, while veteran Manningham has the edge, Johnson has to play big while Revis and Banks are busy with Crabtree and Boldin. A.j. Jenkins could see time in the slot as well, the 49ers 2012 first round pick will be looking to make a bigger impact. Quinton Patton has been getting a lot of high praise in training camp, a 4th round pick out of Louisiana Tech has great speed and acceleration to be a perfect slot receiver in the NFL. Patton was a very productive player in college only playing 2 years with 183 receptions for 2,594 yards and 24 touchdowns. This is a huge game for Leonard Johnson and the Buccaneers.
Week 16 vs Rams
The Rams are in the right direction and slot receiver Tavon Austin is a threat even as a rookie. This guy is a dangerous and Leonard Johnson could get smoked with Austin's 4.34 forty time. The Rams have even more flexibility with Jared Cook who can even play in the slot as well. As you can, Jared Cook is just as a threat as Amendola was in the slot, but Cook brings some match-up problems being 6'5'' 248lbs. (Chart below is slot production only!)
Written By: Eric Kaminski (SB Nation: Eric.Kaminski) Twitter @EricKami5