The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been struggling at guard for months, but they've finally added a player who could genuinely earn a starting job, rather than winning it by default. They traded for Chiefs backup guard Rishaw Johnson, but he's shown he can be more than just a backup -- and he should be more than that for the Bucs.
One reason to believe he'll win a job is this play-by-play breakdown of Johnson's play against the Chargers, a week 17 game where the Chiefs rested most of their starters and he got extended playing time. Reading that piece, it sounds like Johnson has the potential to turn into a quality starting guard -- but at minimum, he sounds like he'd represent a significant upgrade over Oniel Cousins at this point.
That said, you can definitely see why Schwartz was praising him. He's got very good stength in both his upper and lower body. He can move in space a little bit. He plays until the whistle. He seems to have a mean streak. And he is above average at locking onto defenders at the second level of the defense when asked to do so (at least for a guy at this point in his career).
I can't give my complete vote of confidence to a guy who has played one game. But I will say that after watching Rishaw in action against a desperate group of defenders, I won't be overly surprised if the Chiefs stand pat at guard in the draft. And I won't be terribly upset about it, either.
But there's more to Johnson than that. There's reason to believe he always was a very talented guard, who struggled because of other reasons, which Joel Thorman details very well in this story. Hurricane Katrina messed with his high school career, forcing him to play at three different schools at the end of his careers. When he went to college at Ole Miss he was accused of credit card fraud among other issues, which led to his dismissal from the program and forced him to go to California University of Pennsylvania. Yes, there's a California in Pennsylvania.
Not surprisingly, going to a small school saw him fly under the radar a bit and led to him being an undrafted free agent, but a Senior Bowl invite shows that he was seen as a talented player at the time, too. He signed with the Seahawks, who didn't hang onto him despite struggling along the offensive line themselves. Instead, he signed with the Chiefs after spending 2012 on the Seahawks' practice squad.
A physical run blocker, decent with his hands in pass pro but his feet tend to stop too much which gets him in some trouble.— Stephen White (@sgw94) August 21, 2014
That's where his career really took off, with a few snaps throughout the season. And in that final game against the Chargers, he got the chance to play a full game. That's where he impressed former Chiefs guard Geoff Schwartz.
"Rishaw played really well in the Chargers game," Schwartz told 610 Sports. "He's a guy that has a lot of talent and he really developed as the year went on. He's strong and explosive off the ball. Sometimes it takes guys a couple of years to get comfortable where they're playing in a game. He did a great job against the Chargers." (via Arrowhead Pride)
Now, obviously, at some point the Kansas City Chiefs lost that confidence in Johnson. Part of that was drafting Zach Fulton, but that wouldn't be enough to put the final nail in his coffin. Perhaps he regressed during this offseason, perhaps he was never that good to begin with -- but clearly there's a lot to work with here, and some reason for optimism as well.