Analysis: San Francisco 49ers sign Josh Johnson


Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers backup quarterback Josh Johnson was not re-signed after being replaced by the better, more seasoned Dan Orlovsky who better fit what the Bucs were looking for behind Josh Freeman. However, this is a fortunate circumstance for Johnson, because he will be reunited with his former college coach, the charismatic Jim Harbaugh, and is in a better offensive system after signing with the San Francisco 49ers.

The quarterback situation isn’t completely solved in San Francisco, but I fully expect Johnson to be the backup to Alex Smith at this point. You can say what you want about Smith, but his accuracy and ability to move the chains with precise throws without making mistakes makes him an asset to that offense. While he would certainly flop in a vertical system, Smith is perfect for the variant of the West Coast offense that the 49ers run under Harbaugh.

Josh Johnson will slide in comfortably as the backup behind Alex Smith, and he and fellow young backup Colin Kaepernick are, in essence, in the same boat. Each of them has talent and have the potential to succeed as the starters in that offensive set-up with their downfield accuracy.

After a terrible 2009 season in which Josh Johnson looked overwhelmed and raw, the project quarterback has certainly matured and morphed into a capable backup. There is barely any tape on him, but a telling statistic is his 8.5 yards per attempt average over the past two seasons. It is admittedly a small sample size, but Josh Johnson played well against the Panthers last season and has been a different, more confident quarterback since 2009. He is an average backup with the upside of a quality starter, and there’s something to be said for the 26-year-old.

At this point, Johnson is an unknown, but he’s definitely the type of player SF should be targeting as a backup QB. He will be under the fine tutelage of Harbaugh- his college coach, no less- and has the chance to show his mix of arm strength and accuracy while with this team. That being said, his play thus far has been underwhelming and all he has is upside. I love the low-risk decision from the Niners, because Josh Johnson can succeed there; it’s the best place for his future. However, he also owns a career AYPA of 2.6, and the only likable quality is his accuracy. He makes a little too many mistakes for comfort, but he has the accuracy to play in the WCO with refinement and become one of the better backups in the league. And, of course, there’s also the chance that he develops into a starter in San Francisco.

You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.

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