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Johnson Is Getting Set for Bigger Role With Jacksonville

Pro football: Former El Toro and USC quarterback is showing some promise in Jaguar minicamp.

June 09, 1996|From Associated Press

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Rob Johnson moved the Jaguar offense down the field during a two-minute drill, hitting a few passes underneath, missing one down the sideline and watching his last pass get dropped in the end zone.

The result was a field goal--progress for the second-year quarterback from El Toro High and USC.

"I thought we did all right," Johnson said last Wednesday during the Jaguars' minicamp. "I'm getting a lot more comfortable with the offense, where guys are going to be. When you're a rookie, you're not really sure, so you're second-guessing yourself."

Johnson's improvement has been discussed often since the team's minicamp in May.

"Rob has definitely improved, and he's got to," Coach Tom Coughlin said. "He's got to step up and do a job we can count on. We need to put him in as many situations as we can."

Johnson, a fourth-round pick, played in only one game last year. He completed three of seven passes for 24 yards and one interception in the Jaguars' worst game of the year, a 44-0 loss to Detroit.

When Steve Beuerlein was hurt for a couple of games early on, Johnson was the backup quarterback, always one play from taking over.

Good thing that never happened.

"I probably thought I was ready," he said with a laugh. "I could have run the offense, but I wouldn't have been effective, I don't think. We'll never know."

He may find out this year. Mark Brunell emerged as the starter, and Beuerlein signed as a free agent with Carolina.

That leaves Johnson fighting for the No. 2 spot against six-year veteran Todd Philcox and free agent Steve Taneyhill.

Johnson is getting a lot of practice time, particularly in the two-minute drill.

"Obviously, the two-minute drill is something he needs to improve on, and the more comfortable he gets with it . . . he will," Coughlin said. "He's got to. He's got a million things thrown at him. It's definitely a yardstick by which you evaluate."

Johnson figures these kind of drills will speed up his development, unlike in his rookie season when he was trying to learn his way around.

"It's nice to feel more a part of the team," he said. "Last year was more of me trying to get respect and prove to the guys I can play.

"I feel a lot more responsibility competing to be the backup," he said. "One play and you could go in, and the team has got to be able to count on you to put them in a position to win or to close a game out."

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