Josh Johnson is the quintessential NFL backup quarterback, well-traveled but rarely used. So rarely used, in fact, that he hasn’t appeared in an NFL game since 2013. Johnson has not thrown an NFL pass since 2011, when he went 19-of-36 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The New York Giants are Johnson’s ninth NFL team in a career that began when he was a fifth-round pick by the Buccaneers in 2008. This time around, Johnson finds himself in a competition with Geno Smith for the No. 2 job behind Eli Manning. Unless something unforeseen happens, Johnson will either win the job or wind up looking for his 10th NFL employer.
Let’s take a closer look at Johnson as we continue our player-by-player profiles of the Giants’ 90-man roster.
2016 Season In Review
There isn’t much to tell. Johnson went 41-of-57 (71.9 percent) for 365 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a passer rating of 94.6 in the preseason with Baltimore. The Ravens cut him, anyway, and the Giants picked him up a few days before their season opener. Johnson was the Giants’ third quarterback most of the season, active for only two games when an elbow injury sidelined backup Ryan Nassib. Johnson did not take a regular-season snap.
Like any prideful professional athlete, Johnson yearns to play and tires of the “how can you be ready after not playing in so long” question.
“I hear it, but it’s weird to me because it’s like they don’t credit preseason; like it doesn’t happen. That’s football, and I play well in the preseason,” Johnson said during OTAs. “That’s the opportunity that I was given and for the blessing of the other guys that I’ve been behind, they haven’t gotten hurt so I’ve got the opportunity to stay ready. I’ve always been prepared, since I was younger. I learned that from the guys I initially played with, to always be ready because as a back-up quarterback you never know when your opportunity is going to come.
“It is just something for people to talk about and it doesn’t bother me. My job is to go out when I go out, and play and perform, and if you check my tape recently I have done that.”
2017 Season Outlook
If all goes according to plan for the Giants, Manning will once again be the starter and play every meaningful snap. Rookie third-round pick Davis Webb will be the third quarterback, and will more or less red-shirt in what should be a learning year for him. Either Johnson or Smith, a flop in four seasons with the New York Jets, will be No. 2 and get the call if an injury — unthinkable but also probably eventually inevitable — sidelines the 36-year-old Manning.
Johnson’s fate might well be as much up to Smith as it is anything else. The 26-year-old Smith was a 2013 second-round pick by the Jets. He never flourished, though. Partially, perhaps because of the instability of the Jets organization, but also perhaps because of his own maturity issues. At the end of mini-camp, Johnson may have had a leg up on the No. 2 job as Smith was still limited following surgery on his right knee. If Smith can show the Giants that he is healthy enough and mature enough after a rocky tenure with Gang Green, the 31-year-old Johnson might have an uphill climb to win the backup job.
“My chances are as good as anyone else’s. It’s about going out there and earning it and proving it on the field and that’s all I am focusing on doing,” Johnson said during OTAs. “I was here last year, and they wanted me to come back. I established something here last year that let them see what I can do on the field. I had an opportunity to come back and compete and earn something that was there and to me, that’s all I can ask for.”
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