Leonard Johnson battles, comes up short against Julio Jones
This time last year, Leonard Johnson was preparing for his next Big 12 opponent as a senior at Iowa State.
Today, he had a little more on his plate. With the Bucs down a man because top CB Eric Wright was out with an Achilles injury, the Bucs turned to Johnson for his second career start.
Unfortunately for Johnson, Falcons WR Julio Jones managed to play despite a sore right ankle.
Jones went on to posterize Johnson, catching an 80-yard bomb for a third-quarter touchdown that left Johnson assessing what went wrong.
The Falcons spotted the one-on-one coverage on the play, leaving it up to Johnson to stay step for step with Jones. And he did, for a while. But a couple of technique flaws allowed Jones to put some distance between them, and Ryan’s laser of a pass was right on point.
“I should have played my technique a little better,” Johnson said. “That would have put me at an advantage. I played him tough all day. But he’s a great receiver. No doubt about that.”
It was just the kind of matchup and coverage the Falcons were looking for. S Ronde Barber, who was playing on Johnson’s side of the field, was watching streaking TE Tony Gonzalez in the middle of the field and drifted in that direction. That left Johnson by himself and had Jones licking his chops.
QB Matt Ryan “put it up there and gave me an opportunity,” Jones said. “He said, ‘You have man-on-man on this play. I’m coming to you. Just go get it.”