The Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Oakland this week to take on the Raiders. If the Bucs are to win and move to 4-4 on the season, they may have to do so without both of their starting cornerbacks.
Aqib Talib will be sitting out the final game of his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's performance enhancing substance policy by taking the drug Adderall. Fellow starter, Eric Wright, may miss Sunday's game because of an Achilles injury and is facing his own four-game substance after testing positive for Adderall as well.
The Bucs will need to have a backup plan in case Wright isn't able to go and that means rookie Leonard Johnson is likely in line to make his second consecutive NFL start.
Johnson, a Clearwater native and undrafted free agent, saw extensive playing time against the Minnesota Vikings last week and played well according to his head coach.
"I think he competed," said Greg Schiano. "The stage doesn’t get a lot bigger in the season than on national television game against a team that is doing well offensively. It wasn’t too big for him. I guess that’s the best thing. He competed and made some plays. He had an interception."
Johnson had three passes defensed, two tackles, and one interception against Minnesota. He also nearly had a second pick late in the game, but it was said that Johnson stepped out of bounds before controlling the football.
With a standout performance in his first career start, the rookie racked up as many interceptions (1) in one game as Wright has had in seven games this season.
"I just went out and tried to have fun and do everything I was asked to do," Johnson said. "The fact I was able to start in nickel and dime (coverages) was something I looked forward to doing all week. I didn’t want to put too much thought into it or pressure on myself about going out there with the first team.
I told myself that all week knowing that if I just took care of things in practice I’d feel confident and then I’d be able to go out and perform. I always visualize having big games. I didn’t actually visualize that (the interception), but I just knew something big would happen."
With Wright's status up in the air currently, Johnson may have the chance put up big numbers again against Carson Palmer and co. on Sunday.
"I’m just taking it one day at a time," said Johnson. "The whole Eric Wright situation will handle itself, the Achilles or whatever else it is that’s going on. Right now I’m just trying to focus on getting better and doing the things I can do to be prepared if anything was to happen.
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