Can Johnson deliver?

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 10:58 AM ET

Jason Johnson is the perfect talking head for any football team.

Always carrying a positive attitude, he consistently says the right thing at the right time.

But talk is cheap.

What the Edmonton Eskimos need is a legitimate backup quarterback.

With Jason Maas - the hero of the Western final last fall - now in Hamilton, the team requires somebody who can come off the bench and lead the team to the Promised Land if all-star Ricky Ray falters or is injured.

But does Johnson have the talent and the ability to win the No. 2 job?

That is a legitimate question as the Eskimos start Day 2 of training camp because in two full years in Edmonton, Johnson has thrown just five passes in two regular-season campaigns as the No. 3 pivot.

But the 26-year-old Washington native believes he is ready for the assignment.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself that I can get it done," he explained.

"As soon as (last) season finished, I went down to Arizona and started training with a bunch of former teammates of mine that are now in the NFL as receivers."

However, he knows there are skeptics sitting in the stands at Clarke Park during every day of training camp because of his significant lack of CFL experience.

"But a lot of people wondered about Ricky Ray when he stepped in for Jason Maas a few years ago and he proved all of them wrong," said Johnson.

"And to tell you the truth, my pro career in Edmonton is exactly mimicking my college career.

"I was the backup for two or three years and nobody really knew a lot about me when I got my chance.

"I came in my junior year as the starter having only thrown like 10 balls (in my college career) and I broke the school record for passing that year.

"So, I think I surprised a lot of people," he added.

When Johnson graduated from the University of Arizona, he was the school's single-season record holder for passing yards, attempts and completions.

But what matters now is Eskimo training camp and attempting to beat CFL veteran Khari Jones and rookie Steven Jyles for the No. 2 job.

Johnson didn't look as sharp as Jyles during Day 1, but didn't walk off the field discouraged.

"The first day there are some miscommunications and ups and downs, but you deal with them," he said.

Ultimately, the competition to fill Maas's big shoes will come down to the two preseason games against the Saskatchewan Roughriders, where Johnson's actions on the field will speak much louder than any words. "(Johnson) is always in a good mindset and clearly says all of the right things, but now he needs to go and do it," said head coach Danny Maciocia.


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