When the Raiders signed Derrick Johnson instead of drafting a middle linebacker early, I had reservations. Like most fans, the thought of a young linebacker patrolling the middle for a decade seemed interesting. Honestly, the Raiders’ luck with middle linebackers in recent years did not thrill anyone. On the other hand, the numerous linebackers drafted also failed to produce. Outside of Khalil Mack, the Raiders swung and miss n so many linebacker. Yet, Johnson fits in so many ways.
With a seemingly expedited timetable, the Raiders do not have the time to get a rookie MLB up to speed. As a result, Johnson presents a plus and play into Paul Guenther’s system. Moreover, Johnson, in his own words feels comfortable.
“It’s very aggressive. So many different looks. The onus is really on the linebackers to learn a lot of stuff. That’s good for myself because I know a lot. It’s putting a lot of pressure on me to learn it quickly. Learn it well enough where I can put my own flavor in making plays on this defense. I’m having fun with it now. The last couple of days have been my best days, running around.
From this quote, several thoughts arise. First, Johnson grasped the scheme without hiccups. Next, he appears happy to play within it. Normally, players will try and attempt to feign happiness about switching schemes during their career. Yet, Johnson, at the tail end of his career would serve little purpose in putting up a front. After a decade-plus, Johnson could offer up boilerplate platitudes and walk away. However, he offered sound reasoning.
Right Place, Right Time
At this point, Derrick Johnson knows positioning. That is to say, he will not overextend or compromise the defense. Aggressive is good, overaggressive leads to breakdowns and chunk yardage. Furthermore, Johnson knows what wear and tear can do on a linebacker. Look for him to play with more of a technical approach in coverage. Similarly, when playing downhill versus the run, Johnson will flash and dip under and around block. Granted, he will face a fullback or tight end with more ferocity.
In reality, Derrick Johnson may not be the linebacker most wanted. The Raiders sought him out for a reason. I hope that he will fill a void.