Bucs have versatility at defensive end

TAMPA, Fla. -- When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lined up for organized team activities last week, George Johnson was at right defensive end and Jacquies Smith was on the left side.

But that doesn't mean they're going to stay at those positions.

"Keep in mind, without one-on-ones, there is a long way we have to go," coach Lovie Smith said. "But if we bring in a defensive end, we aren't going to bring in a defensive end that can just play on the left side. We want a guy that we feel like can be a right end. When we say right end, a guy that can be an edge rusher, that can do both, just like we don't bring in a lot of Mike linebackers. We want skilled, athletic linebackers that can play in space. The guy that is maybe the slowest will play inside. The guy that maybe is not as quick as we want him to be off the edge on the right side will play our left end position. George can do both."

The Bucs believe Smith also can play both end positions. The plan is to go through training camp and the preseason before making a decision on how the defensive ends line up. Although Johnson and Smith have spent most of their careers as backups, the Bucs believe they're good enough to start. Smith claimed a starting job last season and produced 6.5 sacks.

Johnson played in a backup role in Detroit and had 6.0 sacks.

"When George did play for an extended period of time against us; he played most of the game against us, we saw what type of football player he can be," Lovie Smith said. "George is good enough to be a starter in this league and be a good starter in this league."

Johnson drew some attention last week when he said he will reach double-digit sacks. That might seem like a lofty goal for someone with 6.0 career sacks. But Lovie Smith said Johnson can do it.

"If you talk to a defensive end and he says, 'You know, I'm not going to be a double-digit sack guy,' he can't play for us," Smith said. "To get on the map, you need to be a double-digit sack guy, period as a defensive lineman. We hope he is thinking that way."