The New England Patriots featured an interesting defensive wrinkle when they faced the Houston Texans, but everyone should have expected it to happen. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick is a defensive mastermind and the change was simple, elegant, and effective.
How do you defeat that which you do not understand?
This is a short story of cornerback Leonard Johnson and how he became your favorite member of the Patriots in just a couple short hours.
Johnson was undrafted out of Iowa State in 2012 before latching on with his hometown Tampa Bay Buccaneers for three years and an offseason, acting as the team's top nickel corner. The 5'10, 200 lbs cornerback broke his ankle in August and was placed on the injured reserve.
The Buccaneers waived Johnson from the injured reserve on December 3rd, and the cornerback quickly latched on with the Patriots on December 9th. He suited up for his first game as a member of the Patriots on December 13th.
This is Leonard's second play as #34 of the New England Patriots.
Leonard wanted to leave an impression on the coaching staff with his play and his physical presence was certainly felt. He was excited to be on the field and, most importantly, he limited his mistakes.
The first time Johnson jumped off the screen and danced his way into our hearts was on 3rd down. No one knew who he was. Alec thought it was Shane Vereen. I felt uncomfortable seeing #34 on defense.
That dance, though? Oh man. It was great. I didn't care if Johnson was awful. I didn't care if anything else happened. I loved him for that dance and I immediately started to root for that swagger.
Leonard built off of that initial play to make key stops on third and fourth downs, while racking up an impressive two pass break-ups on three targets. That third target? It was completed for -1 yards.
Yes. Negative one yards.
"He's a pretty experienced player in the league," Belichick said after the game. "He's come around a little bit and has played that position so, but he worked hard.
"He worked really hard this week and so did his teammates, Logan (Ryan), Devin (McCourty), Malcom (Butler), Duron (Harmon), Pat (Patrick Chung) in terms of their communication and I thought that the play made on the fourth down play in the third quarter where they had their receivers try to run down underneath, we made combination call on that and he did a good job of taking away the inside route down there and broke it up."
I don't know if Johnson will be a part of the Patriots game plan moving forward, especially when Justin Coleman returns. He offers a quality fourth corner on the depth chart that the Patriots haven't had this whole season.
"It was a long week, it was a lot of extra work, lot of extra meetings," Belichick said. "Some good competitive time on the practice field so hopefully that'll pay off. Got to give him a lot of credit, he came in and learned and his teammates embraced it and we got some good plays out of both he and Justin (Coleman)."
I want to see Johnson out there again. I need to see him out there.
Dancing, dancing, dancing.