Editor's Note: Joe will be breaking down different Bengals players in scouting reports, judging their strengths, weaknesses and giving his overall impression, starting with guys who could possibly be leaving the team when the lockout ends and free agency begins. Keep an eye out for more scouting reports that will be coming soon.
Strengths: Johnson is an extremely versatile linebacker who has excelled in his specific role with the Bengals. He has found success in nickel packages as both a cover linebacker and a pass rusher. He is the Bengals' best linebacker in both man and zone coverages. He's very tall and has good range on pass defense, good ball skills and long arms to knock down passes. Brandon Johnson has also developed into a solid pass rusher. He and Dhani Jones frequently line up over the center to execute the double A-Gap blitz. This has been a staple play in the Bengals nickel packages with Johnson because he has good anticipation to get a jump on the snap count. Add that to great play execution by Johnson (which he always does) and he is usually applying pressure on opposing quarterbacks. He almost never misses a tackle and plays very consistent every week. Johnson is noticed whenever he touches the field.
Weaknesses: Sometimes his height (6-5) can hurt him when he needs to play with leverage. Blockers can get into his body and Johnson will struggle to shed the block. He's not strong to at the point of attack, much better in a chase situation. His best position is at the weak-side linebackers spot (has played SAM in a pinch), where he can rack up tackles and keep himself away from blockers. He seems like a trash talker on the field and can play a little dirty at times.
Overall Impression: He was a team captain in 2010. He plays in every Nickel package and special teams unit. Brandon Johnson has been a very productive player in a limited role with the Bengals. Over the past three seasons, no Bengals linebacker has made more impact plays than :Johnson has. He's a guy who plays with a lot of emotion. While he usually plays smart and acts like a team leader, I've seen him flip off some Ravens fans and take a stupid penalty by getting the last shove in a pushing match after the play. Because Johnson is so passionate about his game, I could understand if he wanted to sign elsewhere. He's arguably been the Bengals best overall linebacker over the past three years and still we've seen his snaps reduced every year. The Bengals fans would love to have him back but we understand that he deserves to be a starter in the NFL and he won't have that opportunity in Cincinnati. I could see Brandon Johnson getting a four-year deal in the $10-12 million range.