The Texas A&M quarterback is working with a former Packers quarterback, Zeke Bratkowski, to get ready for the draft and his NFL career. Johnson's coach with the Aggies is former Packers coach Mike Sherman. His position coach at College Station was Tom Rossley, who was Sherman's offensive coordinator in Green Bay.
So, it's probably no surprise that the strong-armed Johnson is on the Packers' radar and is one of several quarterbacks who met with the team at the Scouting Combine last week.
The 6-foot-5 Johnson had a brilliant junior season and was one of the top-rated prospects entering his senior season. Instead, he was benched and watched his backup lead the Aggies to a bowl game. As a junior, Johnson completed 59.6 percent of his passes, with 30 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He was sacked 24 times in 13 games. As a senior, he completed 56.6 percent of his passes, with 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Showing a lack of decisiveness and confidence, he was sacked 25 times in seven games.
Johnson chalked it up to shoulder fatigue stemming from surgery on his throwing shoulder the previous offseason.
"I just wasn't myself as a quarterback," he said at the Combine. "Once you start to think about it, or doubt, or anything like that, you have any thoughts in your head that you're not right, it affects the way you play. I definitely felt I went through that."
Johnson has a staunch supporter in Sherman.
"I don't think there will be another quarterback in the draft that knows football like this guy knows football," Sherman told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Charean Williams. "He knows the ins and outs. He can get on the board with any coach, and they would hire him as a coach, because of his knowledge of football. He's extremely, extremely knowledgeable. He studies the game, loves the game. He's a gym rat. I told him at one point he needed to get a girlfriend, because he spent too much time up here.
"I think he can get it back. He knows what he has to do. He just has to get that shoulder rested up, so he can zip the ball like he used to zip it. I definitely think he can do it."
Johnson said his shoulder was "95 percent" healthy but he struggled during throwing drills at the Combine. Nonetheless — if he's healthy — Johnson offers intriguing upside as the type of developmental quarterback the Packers might be looking for as they have to prepare for Matt Flynn's departure to become a starter at some point. Johnson has good-enough arm strength for a West Coast system when healthy, has good feet and mobility, can throw with accuracy on the run and has a feel for the game. His mechanics need a revamp but quarterbacks coach Tom Clements would be up for the challenge, and he's gotten a jump-start with Bratkowski, who worked with Tim Tebow before the draft last year.
"The thing about mechanics is it starts from your feet up," Johnson said. "I've been spending some time with Zeke Bratkowski. I got to him and expected him to say something about my motion but he's like, ‘Look, just looking at your film, you got away with throwing a lot of balls without using your body and your feet and just left it up to your brute arm strength. Now, with what happened to your shoulder, you're not going to be able to do that. So you really have to put a precedence on using your feet.' Getting my feet underneath me to make throws makes your arm strength better, because your body is in better position to deliver the ball. I've been working on my footwork and I guess you can say it's helped my motion."
Johnson knows his draft stock has slid — so drastically that he might not be drafted at all. That hasn't quelled his confidence that he can play in the NFL.
"I think a lot people have forgotten about me or kind of put me under the radar, which is fine with me," he said. "I think physically, my skill-set is up there with anybody. My size, my feet, even my arm strength, it's not been an issue prior to this last season. I still have something to prove with that aspect of it. Also, getting here, talking to these teams and I'm really excited about I can get on the board and talk about the fact that the offense we ran at A&M translates really well to the NFL. We ran the exact same offense, with the exact same terminology as the Texans and it's just like all the other West Coach systems. I'm pretty well-versed in that and I think that's an advantage I have, so I think I'll have a pretty good chance of being pretty successful in this league."
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