Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A Scout's View

What’s to like about Brad Johnson? Apparently, quite a bit, if you’re an NFL scout

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Brad Johnson couldn't avoid every Buccaneer rusher last October, but he stayed up long enough to beat the Bucs' 20-17 in OT

What's to like about Brad Johnson? Apparently, quite a bit, if you're an NFL scout

Here's what most of us know about Brad Johnson, the Bucs' new quarterback:

He's good.

Oh, sure, we can rattle off his more impressive statistics (4,000 yards, 24 TD passes in 1999), or mention his height (a helpful 6-foot-5) or point to his 33-19 NFL record as a starter. But we basically believe he's good because that's what the news has told us, because we've seen him perform well on television and because he was the most sought-after quarterback on the free agent market.

That's not good enough for an NFL scout.

It may have seemed like a no-brainer that the Buccaneers, having decided that adding a proven quarterback would be a good idea, would go after Johnson, but NFL teams don't leave anything to chance. Johnson has been scouted many times over by the Buccaneers' personnel staff, and those reviews came in handy last Friday when free agency began.

The Bucs' personnel department had built up a solid opinion on Johnson, with very specific elements of his game that they admired, just as they have for every player in the league. The report was, in a word, glowing.

Gary Shelton, a sports columnist for the St. Petersburg Times hit on this topic on Tuesday, sharing a scout's view in terms of Johnson's size, toughness, accuracy, instincts, arm strength, IQ and scrambling ability, using a 1-5 scale. It was very useful information. It's certainly allows us a look at what the Bucs are getting to know that Johnson is thought of as a four in accuracy but just a two in scrambling ability.

But let's go even deeper. Let's take a very specific look at what scouts have to say about Johnson. It is, of course, no surprise to see a team sing the praises of its own players, but keep in mind that all of the following opinions were formed and recorded when Johnson was one of the enemy.

For instance:

· You've probably heard the term 'pocket presence' and Johnson is considered strong in this category. Part of that is dependent on his height, which allows him to easily see over the line, improving his accuracy on short throws. He also 'feels' the rush well and is good at avoiding sacks despite the fact that he is not terribly fleet afoot.

· Of his various positives, what is considered Johnson's best trait is his accuracy. More specifically, Johnson has 'pure' accuracy to all three levels of the field. That is, he is on-the-money with short passes but can also put the ball in a tight spot on intermediate passes and can hit the deep ball with regularity. He shows good touch on dump-off passes but still gets zip on the ball on deep out patterns. In 1999, he was considered one of the best deep-ball passers in the league.

· Johnson also has good mechanics in his drop-back, his set and his throw. He gets the ball off at a high release point, which is something coaches try to teach every quarterback. One of the results is what scout's call a very 'catchable' spiral.

· Another positive that Buccaneer fans will certainly appreciate in Johnson's game is that he is quite good at putting the ball in a position that allows his receivers to gain extra yards after the catch. That is, he allows the receiver to catch the ball in stride.

· You've probably heard that Johnson has good field vision. What that means more specifically, and what the scouts agree on about Johnson, is that he can read the defense well after the snap and quickly find the open man. The scouts, in fact, have always felt that Johnson can beat a team with his football smarts.

· Finally, Johnson has never had terrible fumbling problems when he's been sacked, which is comforting.

Of course, it's not necessary to know this detailed of a scouting report to appreciate what Johnson can do on the field. Buc fans, in fact, will probably form their own opinions on Johnson in 2001 based on one simple matter: can he get his team into the end zone.

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