It's been a tough year for safety Ryan Neal, who seems to be losing ground -- and time -- on earning a spot with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers long-term.
Neal was lauded as a potential free agent steal over the offseason, coming over from the Seattle Seahawks and looking like a guy who could be in for a surprise season. The only surprise he's delivered ten weeks into his time in Tampa Bay is fans being shocked he's still allowed on the field.
From busted coverages to seemingly always being near a bad play, Neal has fallen out of favor with Bucs fans. Todd Bowles continued to defend him after bad games against the Falcons and Bills, but he has started to take away playing time over the last two games.
Neal has started losing snaps to Dee Delaney, which increased throughout games against the Texans and Titans. Things got a lot harder for Neal on Wednesday when he was seen standing on the sidelines with a wrapped hand at practice as the Bucs front office went to work adding some safety depth in free agency.
Buccaneers sign former Bills safety Jaquan Johnson to practice squad
It remains to be seen whether Neal's injury will keep him out of action on Sunday against the 49ers, but the Buccaneers didn't waste time adding some depth at safety. Tampa Bay was already thin at the position, but added former Buffalo Bills safety Jaquan Johnson to its practice squad in what seems like a precautionary move.
Johnson spent his first few seasons as part of a brooding Buffalo Bills defense before leaving to sign a deal with the Las Vegas Raiders this past offseason. He was released in August, which begs the question of whether or not he deserved it since Josh McDaniels was still running the show when the decision was made.
He wasn't signed between then and now, but everything about the Raiders turnaround suggests some things might have been missed. Johnson won't be automatically joining the active roster, though, and if he does get elevated the Bucs will be taking baby steps with him.
It's possible this is strictly a depth move and won't have any deeper impact than that. It's an interesting move, though given how far Neal has fallen since signing with the Bucs over the offseason.
There's a chance he turns it around, as he's in a spot that not many of his critics are fully giving him the benefit of the doubt over. He's looked out of sorts at times, which is the tell-tale sign of a guy who is playing for the first time with a tightly-knit unit. Neal has only ten games of experience in the Bucs system under his belt, and it's showing in all the wrong ways.
Johnson adds depth, for now, and we'll see if it turns into anything more than that.