Detroit — It’s a slow progression for Lions reserve quarterback Josh Johnson.
After joining the team following Tom Savage’s concussion in the preseason opener, Johnson has tried to get acclimated quickly to the new system and show that he can make the team. The Lions, trying to fill the void behind starter Matthew Stafford, are gauging what Johnson can offer.
In Friday’s 24-20 preseason loss to the Buffalo Bills at Ford Field, Johnson went 5-of-10 for 71 yards and orchestrated a 95-yard drive in the fourth quarter that brought the Lions within four points. Johnson was 2-of-4 for 35 yards, including a 23-yard pass play to rookie tight end Isaac Nauta, on the scoring drive.
“I’m just working through a lot. I had two surgeries and just got cleared before I joined the team, so just getting everything back,” Johnson said. “I’m just trying to get as comfortable as possible as fast as possible.”
Last week in his Lions preseason debut, Johnson was 9-of-18 for 85 yards. He was the backup option, as Stafford didn't play and David Fales got the start.
On Friday night, Johnson was the third option, behind Stafford and Fales. He entered in the fourth quarter after Stafford played into the second quarter and Fales took over.
Johnson, 33, is playing with his 13th NFL team and over his career, he has slowed from the dual threat that he had been before. Now, he’s just trying to stick on a roster and he has one preseason game remaining to do it with the Lions.
He’s getting some help from the Lions medical team to get oriented quickly in practice and trying to understand the playbook.
“(Running was) part of my game. I’ve only had two surgeries in my career. Our strength coaches and training staff have been tremendous in helping me get back in playing shape,” he said. “I’m trying to focus on it and it’s been responding well.”
Johnson had one run for 11 yards on Friday night and showed a flash of what he can do. He’s not completely where he wants to be, but continued work with the Lions staff is giving him the reps and boost he needs.
He had another opportunity before he signed with the Lions but is looking to make the most of this opportunity.
“Right before I got here, I had a workout with another team and that was my first test at a physical, high-intense moment and it responded well,” Johnson said. “I’m just excited to see how it responds every day. Our support here has been tremendous, and they’ve been doing a lot to help me get up to speed.”