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Josh Johnson Gave Redskins Safe QB Play Its Been Missing Since Alex Smith’s Injury

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Josh Johnson got his first NFL career win Sunday, as the Washington Redskins downed the Jacksonville Jaguars 16-13 off a 36-yard field goal from Dustin Hopkins as time expired. It was a remarkable feat for the 32-year old quarterback considering his journey that has took him through 12 different stops in the NFL.

Johnson did so playing it safe and not making mistakes by turning over the football. It’s a mantra that helped the Redskins get off to a successful 6-3 start to the season behind then-starting quarterback Alex Smith. Johnson was on top of his reads for the most part, getting rid of the football before falling victim to pressure. He added 49 rushing yards, including a tough 10-yard scramble on 3rd-and-9 on the opening third quarter-drive that helped set up a field goal for Washington.

He used his feet when the throw was not there. It’s an ability missing within the Redskins offense at quarterback much of the season, even with Smith. 

As a result, Johnson was 16-of-25 passing a pedestrian 151 yards and one touchdown. However, the most important stat of them all… zero interceptions and turnovers. Johnson evaded a close call or two, but for the most part he was smart with the football.

A couple of dropped passes — see Vernon Davis — and the numbers may have been more enticing for Johnson. However, he did get a game-saving tipped catch from wide receiver Jamison Crowder on 3rd-and-15 in the fourth quarter that helped set up the game-tying touchdown. 

With the mulligan on his throw, Johnson made sure to complete the magic, finding tight end Jeremy Sprinkle in the flat for the touchdown. It was a smart, quick, and safe read and throw.

Johnson kept the game within reach even when they trailed 13-6. It’s a far cry of what the Redskins had in recent weeks, as both Colt McCoy and Mark Sanchez turned over the football. 

Johnson looked a lot like Smith in regards to the game plan and delivery of some of passes. It was a rewind back to earlier in the season when the Redskins were more successful. And while the run game was not there for much of the first 58 minutes of the game, Johnson’s safe approach throwing the football gave them a chance and eventually with the threat of his feet and ability to find receivers opened, allowed running back Adrian Peterson to feast on the game-winning drive. 

The Redskins defense benefited for a more controlled pace by the offense, and held the Jaguars offense to 192 yards, 20 yards passing for the game. And they did not allow an offensive touchdown in the process. 

From the moment Smith went down for the season with a compound fracture, breaking his fibula and tibia in the process, the Redskins were on the search to get back the safe and alert passing Smith provided. McCoy struggled to do so in his first start, throwing three interceptions in a Thanksgiving loss to the Dallas Cowboys. McCoy seemed to get it together in his second start against the Philadelphia Eagles, completing all four of his passes, however, he was kicked in the leg avoiding pressure and suffered a broken fibula.

Sanchez was a train wreck, throwing three interceptions in two games, including two in his first start in a Redskins’ uniform as Washington got walloped 40-16 against the New York Giants. The 16 points came at the hand of Johnson, who was signed on Dec. 5 after McCoy’s injury. He was precise and showed promised even though doing all his work occurred down by 40 points — 11-of-16 passing for 195 yards and one touchdown and one rushing touchdown on 45 yards.

It was enough of a glimpse to earn him his first start in seven years, and he made head coach Jay Gruden look smart in the decision. Yes, he didn’t wow with amazing numbers, but he gave the Redskins what they been searching for the past four weeks, safety at the quarterback position. And for it, the Redskins are now 7-7 and remain one-half game out of the playoffs.

With the Cowboys’ 23-0 loss Sunday against Indianapolis, Washington is within one game of first place in the NFC East as well. There’s a different type of hope now. Nothing to get overly excited for because there are still issues with the team, especially common with 18 players on injured reserve including three starting-caliber offensive guards. However, Johnson has ignited a spark that was lost when Smith went down. 

As a trip to Tennessee approaches on a short week, Johnson showed promise once again. And the Redskins’ season looks a lot less disastrous as it did a week ago.

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