The stat line for a defensive tackle is rarely impressive at first glance. Usually they're credited with only a few tackles a game as they spend most of their day filling gaps, spilling running backs wide and flushing quarterbacks to the flanks.
Spencer Johnson did his fair share of that in his first season with the Bills in 2008, but thus far this preseason Johnson has spent a lot more time in opponents' backfields.
Johnson, who was sprinkled in for first team reps against the Steelers Saturday night, has performed admirably particularly when it comes to putting pressure on the quarterback.
His best preseason performance came at Green Bay where he registered a tackle for loss and a quarterback hit, as he was chasing down Aaron Rodgers and Brian Brohm on more than a few occasions.
Always one to deflect personal credit, Johnson believes every defensive lineman on the roster has made improvements with their hand techniques, due mainly to defensive line coach Bob Sanders and Tae Kwan Do instructor Joe Kim.
"We've had Joe Kim coming in and helping us and it's been a point of emphasis all offseason, getting hits on the quarterback," said Johnson. "This year we want to develop more pressure and more sacks as individuals and as a team."
Johnson and his teammates haven't rolled up a bunch of sacks just yet with a total of six in four preseason games. But number 91 has been beating his man far more often than he did last season and that improvement has been evident to the Bills coaching staff.
"He's had a great preseason and training camp," said head coach Dick Jauron. "He's a great teammate. He plays hard. Spence has done a real nice job."
Johnson's pair of tackles for loss this preseason demonstrate how the sharpening of his hand techniques has enabled him to shed blockers quicker and more often.
"I've worked on it, and every day we come out to the practice field and it may be a repetitive process, but we're all coming out here and working hard on our techniques and it's becoming second nature to us," said Johnson. "I think it's only going to help us out in the long run."
And while the pressures, quarterback hits, sacks and tackles for loss have not yet come in bunches for Buffalo's front line, some of what Johnson has flashed thus far this summer is an encouraging sign for the regular season.
"It's all about reading the offensive line and kind of knowing what they're going to do beforehand, and just playing your blocks," he said. "Being aggressive with whatever blocks you get and using your hands. It's just basic d-line play – getting off blocks and making things happen."