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Solid Success From Bengals Defensive End Michael Johnson Asks: Breakout Year In 2011?

One has to wonder just where Michael Johnson fits in all of this. Drafted in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft -- with character-based red flags attached mostly about work ethic -- the former Georgia Tech defensive end played 16 games his rookie campaign, recording three quarterback sacks and five passes defensed. During last year's offseason, the Bengals decided to try working Johnson out as a linebacker, offering relative success in his transition. However, due to injuries and suspensions on the defensive line, Johnson returned primarily to his natural position in 2010.

And for the year, Johnson played well.

Along with his 2.5 quarterback sacks, the second-year player accounted for 20 quarterback pressures and five drops. Along with Geno Atkins adding pressure up the middle, Johnson's pressure forced quarterbacks to shift to their right, allowing Carlos Dunlap to set a franchise rookie record with 9.5 quarterback sacks in 2010. He made at least two plays of no-gain or negative yards for the opposing offense in seven of the final eight games of the season and his lengthy wing-span allowed him to knock four passes down at the line of scrimmage.

Towards the end of the season, Johnson's play against the run really took off. Against the San Diego Chargers, Johnson recorded three tackles-for-loss (a season high), including a Ryan Mathews one-yard loss on third-and-goal from the Bengals one-yard line. Johnson recorded five tackles against the Chargers and added another team-leading seven stops against the Baltimore Ravens -- two more which went for losses.

Johnson finished the season playing every game in 2010, including 10 starts, 49 tackles and a special teams fumble recovery.