Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson's media session with reporters on Wednesday, December 12, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. Johnson's journey is full of learning experiences
As he began explaining near the start of his press conference on Wednesday, Josh Johnson has played with a lot of quarterbacks in his NFL tenure. Hall of Fame quarterbacks, MVP quarterbacks, Super Bowl quarterbacks, quarterbacks drafted in the first round, quarterbacks drafted in the fifth round. You get the point.
That's all valuable information that's been stowed for opportunities like the one he has this Sunday, as Johnson makes his first start since the 2011 season, then a member of the Buccaneers replacing an injured Josh Freeman.
"I've experienced coaching from numerous coaches and you pick up on some common traits," Johnson said. "You pick up on different things where you can apply it when necessary whether it is preparation, performance, mental stability. Everything becomes a full circle, so it's getting me ready for Sunday."
2. His confidence comes from his struggle
Head coach Jay Gruden said at his press conference that he was most impressed with Johnson's confidence, that it's unwavering at practice despite not playing in a regular season game since 2013.
That all comes from Johnson's background, growing up in Oakland and preaching to kids in the inner city about making it out of their environments. They keep him accountable and provide him perspective on his opportunity in the NFL.
"For me, not only am I setting an example of what resilience is, I can't tell a younger kid, I can't tell my own kid how important it is to keep their mind on something if my actions don't reflect that," Johnson said. "They kind of hold me accountable as well when I interact with the youth because it's important for me to practice what I preach."
He added later: "This is like going to Disney Land every day for me, for real, because just a week ago, I was at home in the hood, chilling with the kids, chilling with my family and thinking on the couch that I might never play in the NFL again. But a week later, look at me now, I'm here starting with a great opportunity to get us a victory this Sunday against Jacksonville. I'm excited about that and that's a blessing."
3. Picking up the scheme and verbiage wasn't too challenging
It's been a while since Johnson played under Gruden, but after years playing for him in Tampa Bay and Cincinnati, being yelled at with the same play calls over and over again, Johnson said re-learning everything hasn't been too tough.
"Jay yelled at me enough out there to where it kind of stuck in my head on certain things on how he wants things done," Johnson said. "Stepping back in here has kind of eased my way through the little things a little bit better. There are some things that have changed, but again my journey has put me in so many different systems I've learned a huge amount of football from a lot of great football minds. It's just kind of re-learning another language. At the end of the day, concepts are concepts."
4. He's excited to play a great defense, mostly because he gets to play at all
Instead of breaking down the Jaguars defense, Johnson explained how grateful he was just to have the opportunity to play them.
"Honestly man, to me that's the beauty of sports," Johnson said. "As a pro athlete, as a kid, you want to be out there. I've been a backup for so long, I think you understand that having this opportunity is more special than the challenges that are ahead. I'm excited that we're playing this great defense. I'm excited that we're playing against these talented corners, this pass rush, these linebackers. It's a great test and I wouldn't have it any other way to get an opportunity to go against somebody that you have to earn it and go out and prove that you deserve to be on this field. It's kind of what I've been asking for, so by the grace of God, He's giving me the opportunity to prove my worth and proving your worth versus a great defense, as a competitor, what else can you ask for?"
5. Johnson has seen the evolution of football since entering the league 10 years ago
Off the field for the better part of four years, the Redskins starting quarterback this week has understandably seen a lot of changes since he last took the field.
"It's a more wide open game," Johnson 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. 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."
To combat some of the changes over the last few years, Johnson said he's also kept a manual on coaches and how the league has evolved to stay updated in his time off.
"Even when I'm at home and I'm working out with the younger kids I'm putting them in situations that I want to experience out here," Johnson said. "It may not be that exact same thing, they don't even know what they're doing some of the time but they're learning. But it's also helping me if I ever get put in this position and by the grace of God I'm here dealing with this opportunity."