Jason waits

GERRY PRINCE -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 9:37 AM ET

Jason Johnson is no dummy.

The Edmonton Eskimos pivot graduated near the top of his high-school class and was an All-PAC 10 Academic quarterback at the University of Arizona.

Parked behind Jason Maas, Ricky Ray and Khari Jones on the depth chart, the 25-year-old Johnson knows he's got his work cut out.

Speculation Johnson's future with the Esks hinges on Maas's surgically repaired right shoulder might be an overstatement.

Were Maas to open the year on the one-game injured, Johnson would find himself in the No. 3 spot he occupied last season.

THIRD OR FOURTH

If Maas is good to go for Week 1, the Esks could deal Jones or place him on the one-game injured list. That would still leave Johnson as the third pivot behind Ray and Maas.

Under virtually any scenario, Johnson appears destined to be the Green and Gold's third quarterback again this season.

In the meantime, Johnson isn't fretting about any or all of that.

"The biggest thing with the quarterbacks right now is we're all trying to worry about what we can control," said Johnson, a former No. 3 with the Buffalo Bills who is now in his sophomore season with the Esks.

"You can get caught up in what the media says or the ebb and flow of pre-season. You've just got to do what you've got to do every day, keep a positive attitude and see what happens."

According to rookie head coach Danny Maciocia, the six-foot-two, 210-pound Johnson has been on fire the last three or four days of training camp.

Maciocia says the former Bills pivot has completed roughly 70% of his passes over that span.

Hindsight being 20-20, had the Esks not picked up Jones and Ray, Johnson could have been battling for the No. 2 spot this spring.

"Every year is a completely different situation," said the Tacoma, Washington, native.

"Last year I came in and Jason (Maas) and Bart (Hendricks) were pretty much solidified at one and two.

"It was me and two other guys for that third spot. I feel like I'm always in competition with someone."

Johnson will likely play one quarter in Friday's pre-season matchup versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

Although Maciocia has yet to firm up how he'll deploy his quarterbacks, look for Ray to play most of the opening half and be followed by Jones and Johnson.

Where Maas might fit into the mix Friday was a matter for discussion last night. However, it is believed Maas won't make his pre-season debut until next week's return match with the Blue Bombers.

"We'll make a call on Jason Maas within the next 24 hours," said Maciocia, refusing to tip his hand.

"You need to give (Johnson) at least a quarter's worth of work to get a good evaluation of what he can and cannot do. We also have to give Ricky work. There's a year of inactivity there."

Johnson dressed for all 18 regular-season games last season as well as Edmonton's Western Division semifinal loss to Saskatchewan.

DEBUTED IN WEEK 7

Arizona's single-season record holder for passing yards, completions and attempts, Johnson didn't make his CFL debut until Week 7 in Toronto.

With Maas sidelined by a shoulder injury and Hendricks floundering, Johnson came off the bench in relief and completed three passes for 25 yards.

Regardless of how the quarterbacking situation plays itself out, Johnson is decidedly more comfortable with the Esks offensive scheme and three-down football this year compared to last.

"There's such an added familiarity," he said.

"Last year you didn't know what to expect. With a full season under my belt, I can be comfortable out there.

"I'm not always thinking out there. I can just react and play football and I feel a lot more comfortable out there."


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