Here's five takeaways from Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson's media session with reporters on Wednesday, December 19, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
1. He knows he can improve, considering it was his first start
When you make your first start in seven years, not everything is going to be perfect. For Josh Johnson, that was the case on Sunday playing against the Jaguars with less than two weeks to comprehend the playbook.
Johnson led the team to victory, leaning on running back Adrian Peterson at the end of the game to drive down the field for the game-winning field goal.
"I think I managed the game well,” Johnson said. “There are things I can improve on most definitely considering it’s the first game starting. What I liked was that we just stayed at it as an offense. We never wavered. We got into a good rhythm at the end of the game and were able to finish it off. But it was a lot to build on. Me just being real critical of myself, I felt like we left some things out there as well so we’re going to try to capitalize on those opportunities this week."
What exactly can he improve?
"Just playing more, just trusting the guys, really having a better feel for how they play in a real game,” he said. “How guys run their routes under real live situations versus practice, just getting more comfortable and I guess you could say have a little better trust with the whole offense from the offensive line to the receivers, running backs. Really getting more comfortable with what those guys like to do, have a conversation and just talk them through my thought process and then seeing how they feel about things as well."
2. He explained his thought process on deciding to pass or run
What was noticeable in the Giants game when he entered in the second half was the spark he made with his legs. He was able to maneuver out of collapsing pockets and gain valuable yardage with his feet. That’s something he did again against Jacksonville, rushing for 49 yards.
"At times you’re just playing the game, you know?” Johnson said. “You want to remain a passer as the quarterback, puts much more pressure on the defense. You always want to remain a passer, but I mean you also don’t want to take away from your playmaking abilities. It's just finding that balance. At the end of the day, we’re trying to move those chains. Move those chains, keep moving down the field, get points and allow our defense to play fresh. Then we play complementary football that way. That’s how we were able to come out with that victory with a great team win because we complemented each other well in the second half."
3. He’s got another tough task in the Tennessee defense
Much like Jacksonville, the Titans boast another stout defensive group, not exactly making it easy for a quarterback just getting back into the swing of an NFL lifestyle. That doesn’t mean Johnson is nervous for Saturday. He actively looks forward to these challenges.
"Tennessee is another good defense, man,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t get easier for us, but that’s the beauty of December football. We’re playing another great team and the test gets harder. They’ve got a lot on the line, we’ve got a lot on the line so we’re excited about that. My experience with Coach Vrabel, he was an energetic coach, very hands on, really smart, looks like he’s got his team playing really well. I also was around Dean Pees [Titans Defensive Coordinator] in Baltimore when I played there so just being around those guys. All his defenses always play hard and it’s very reflective on film. So for us, we’ve got another great test."
Check out these photos of the Redskins' preparing for their Week 16 game against the Tennessee Titans Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park.
4. Not turning over the football is key
Head coach Jay Gruden constantly emphasizes ball security to Johnson, and it was one of the keys to Sunday’s victory. Johnson didn’t give the ball away on the ground or in the air to the Jaguars, and the Redskins won the turnover battle.
That was the formula for victory when Alex Smith was in charge of the offense and it remains a key ingredient to winning now.
“You learn that when you first come in the league, you don’t turn over the ball,” Johnson said. “You don’t turn over the ball, you have a chance to win football games. Jay always emphasizes ball security. We have a lot of great faith in our defense and good defenses play well when you don’t put them in bad situations. I learned quick from my time in Tampa. At my short stint there when I started, I turned the ball over in situations where I could’ve protected the points and it was just a great learning lesson for me. Just being aware of where you are on the field, the situation of the game, and just making sure that we always put ourselves in positive situations. The big plays will come, they’ll come. We just got to keep executing."
He added: “We want to be on the field, we want to be running plays, we want to be seeing how the defenses are attacking us because the more we’re out, there the more we get a feel for what’s going on and you get in a rhythm. When you turn the ball over, there is no rhythm. You’re off the field, you’re sitting there watching and you become a spectator.”
5. He enjoys having Adrian Peterson behind him
When Johnson thinks of Peterson, he thinks of the look in his eye.
“The look he has in his eyes is contagious because you see how bad he wants it,” Johnson said. “Then when you hand him the ball, it’s very reflective in the way that he plays.”
Peterson, he said, has been beneficial because his experiences, his leadership has made Johnson’s transition to the team much smoother. On the last drive, Johnson said Peterson never changed his demeanor, he just finally took advantage of a worn down defense.
"AP never changed the whole game,” he said. “He just kept plugging at it. When you’re going against great defenses, it’s going to be like that. That defense is not a bad defense. That’s one of the top defenses in the league, I think they’re number five. To me, the great players, they keep at it, keep at it. He stayed at it. Once they got a little tired in the fourth quarter, he was able to pop off those big runs and we were able to finish the game."