The Tampa Bay Buccaneers said that their offense would have a different look with Josh Johnson replacing Byron Leftwich as the starting quarterback. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson and Johnson highlighted the comfort level they have with each other after working together in the 2008 season, and in 2009 up to now.
"I certainly I have a lot of respect for Josh Johnson," said Olson. "Being able to be with him a year ago has helped me, and I think it has helped him as well. I think we are on the same page. I've always had a lot of respect for the way he approaches a football game. The way he approaches his preparation. He's an intelligent, intelligent player. Obviously he is extremely athletic. He has got some real natural leadership abilities as well. He is a self-made player and you got to like that about him."
Johnson was drafted in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL Draft by Tampa Bay. As a rookie Johnson was the third and fourth string quarterback behind Jeff Garcia, Brian Griese, and Luke McCown. Last season former head coach Jon Gruden deemed the season to be a red-shirt season for Johnson as he learned a complex offense behind experienced veterans. Gruden worked closely with his quarterbacks, and Olson spent extra time bringing Johnson along with extra work after practice.
After the season Gruden was fired, but Olson was retained as quarterbacks coach and eventually promoted to offensive coordinator as well. Garcia and Griese are unsigned, while McCown was traded to Jacksonville before the 2009 regular season kicked off. Johnson and Olson are the only ones remaining from the 2008 quarterback corps and quarterback coaches. The background was significant to Johnson.
"Yeah I would say it has made it smoother," said Johnson. "I understand, and we quote-unquote speak the same language, so he can say things to me and it won't need as much information because I understand what he meant. It take a little more pressure off of him from the standpoint that he might not have to get into the details of everything, but he is a very detailed coach. So far it has gone pretty well, we got practice later on so we will figure it out."
Against the Giants in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter, Johnson was 4-of-10 passing for 36 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. Johnson had a touchdown catch dropped in the back of the end zone by wide receiver Michael Clayton. Johnson also led the Bucs in rushing with one carry that went for 15 yards. Johnson expounded on his game, and what he can bring to the offense that will be different from what the team has showcased in the first three games of the season.
"Obviously I'm a tad bit more mobile than Byron," said Johnson. "He stands in the pocket and makes great throws downfield, probably the best I've ever seen in my life. For me I can do more things on (sic) nakeds (bootlegs), and it compliments the run game I feel pretty well because we are a zone team. We can possibly take advantage of that, but a lot of the stuff will be pretty much the same. I can make the throws that Byron can make as well, so we have to build upon where we are and establish our offense, and try to score more points in the game."
Johnson's mobility is something that excites his teammates. The offensive line has a less demanding job of blocking for the athletic Johnson compared to the stationary Leftwich. Right tackle Jeremy Trueblood said it was instantaneous that Johnson's scrambling ability aided the offensive line.
"If anything it helps me out because if I do get beat he's got a great shot of getting out of there," Trueblood said. "That's already happened once. I think he makes it a lot easier on my life. I just need to block up front so he can do what he needs to do in the pocket, and if he needs to get away he's definitely more than capable of that."
Olson said that Johnson is not just mobile, he is explosive. Leading up to the NFL Draft, Johnson wowed scouts with his 40-yard dash time in the 4.5 range. That is much faster than the average quarterback. The speed that he plays at had Olson thinking of ways to get Johnson involved in the offense even before they decided to make him the starting quarterback.
"If you watch on the practice field, really he is probably one of the two or three most explosive players we have on the team," said Olson. "When you watch him running even a year ago when he was on the scout team and running the show team. We've thrown him out at wide receiver. He's played some. We put him in the game, and our plan was initially in the season if we were going to have some success and continue with Byron, [Johnson] was going to play some wide receiver because of that, because he has done some very nice things on the practice field at wide receiver position. He is a real explosive athlete with good speed."
The mobility and playmaking ability are two things that are not lost on Bucs head coach Raheem Morris.
"Obviously you're talking about Josh's moving ability," said Morris. "You're talking about a guy that can run. We saw him do it in the preseason. As far as him having the ball in his hand, as far as him stretching it down the field, his ability to make a throw on the run that's very accurate, very good Â– that just opens up the offense a little bit more. We've got some things for him, as far as the quick game, as far as getting the ball out of his hand a little bit quicker, as far as the mobility issue that we talked about. These are not knocks on Byron; they're just two different guys. They just create their own different so-to-speak problems for some people. Last week we played two great backs, and obviously 27 [Brandon Jacobs] provided different issues than 44 [Ahmad Bradshaw] did. Those two guys came out and had different issues and they got very good results from both of them. We'll just have to see what's going to happen with Josh Johnson this week."
Johnson will have the challenge of getting his first NFL start on the road in a hostile environment. The Washington Redskins are in a must-win situation after dropping last Sunday's game to the Detroit Lions.
"It will be difficult," said Johnson. "Obviously playing on the road it always is difficult. The Redskins are coming off of a tough loss, so I'm pretty sure the crowd will be fired up. Their team will be fired up. We'll be fired up as well. For me as a pressure standpoint there will be more of an excitement just to be out there. I feel like I'm not the savior. It is not my job to be the savior of this team. My job is to come in and get wins. We are talented. We just have to pull it altogether and become one cohesive unit from offense, and defense, and special teams. If we are one we will win games, and it won't be on one guy's shoulders."