There should be little about this current Redskins team, losers of four in a row with a makeshift offensive line and their fourth starting quarterback in five games, that says they can make any kind of playoff run. And yet they are just a half game out of the last wild card spot in the NFC. If they are going to make the postseason, it appears Johnson will have to lead them.
He seemed fine with this pressure on Wednesday, leaning casually on the lectern and nodding calmly, as he talked about all the teams he has played for — 11 in the NFL (including two stints each with the Niners and Bengals) — and how the time he has spent with different coaches and systems has prepared him for almost anything.
He said that early in his career Jon Gruden, now the coach of the Oakland Raiders, advised him to keep a journal of all the things coaches had taught him, documenting all the changes in the game as the years have gone by.
"It’s a more wide open game,” he said. “It’s a lot more catered to spread offenses. When I came up, I never even got into shotgun until third down in college, high school I was never in shotgun. I had to learn how to throw out a shotgun once I got in the league because the game was transforming a little bit to that. Obviously, a lot of young quarterbacks’ college kind of caters to a spread offense, so really just keeping up with that and working it.
“[I’m] just working it any way possible, just try to be as resourceful as I can whether it is with another human being or that be with my old film, or even with a video game. Every little thing helps.”
In Sunday’s loss to the Giants, Johnson took over for a struggling Sanchez in the third quarter and threw for 195 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another 45 yards. He’ll face the Jaguars on the road Sunday, and Coach Jay Gruden said on Thursday that he will look to make Johnson “as comfortable as possible” and install some plays that cater to his skill set, particularly his impressive mobility outside the pocket.
“The big thing is when he drops back to pass, our receivers have to adjust to possible movement in the pocket. That means breaking off routes,” Gruden said, adding that Jacksonville’s strong pass rush could force him from the pocket often. “We have some different-type plays, getting him outside the pocket possibly. But we’ll see. I think he’s trying to just get in flow of our terminology, our system, the plays that we like that are good for what Jacksonville does, and then also trying to implement some things that he can do well.”
Cornerback Josh Norman expressed confidence in Johnson as he makes his first start for the team, less than two weeks after being signed.
“His approach to the game is definitely one of winning and trying to take the team and put it on his back and carry it, carry that load,” Norman said. “For real, he’s going to take his chances. He’s going to go for it. His foot is going to be on that pedal, I’m telling you. We’re going to ride with him. It’s going to be pretty cool to see him this Sunday.”
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