Notes: Gruden zones in on Johnson; Roland re-signs

Posted Mar 22, 2013

The Bengals agreed to a two-year deal Thursday night with quarterback Josh Johnson as they seek a backup for Andy Dalton.

Josh Johnson

Updated: 4:50 p.m.

Jay Gruden is already talking about the things he can do with Josh Johnson and one of them is the read option that has taken parts of the NFL by storm.

"The beauty of Josh is that he can execute all parts of our offense because he's smart enough," Gruden said Friday in the wake of reports Johnson has a two-year agreement with the Bengals. "Plus, he can do different things than Andy (Dalton) can do and I think that's good to have some diversity behind your No. 1 quarterback."

The Johnson signing won't end the derby behind Dalton. Zac Robinson, who has been on the practice squad for the past two seasons, is in the mix and the Bengals figure to draft a quarterback at some point as well as continue to look at the veteran market. Although the club has kept just one quarterback behind Dalton during his two seasons, Bengals president Mike Brown indicated this week the Bengals could keep three on the active roster.

Gruden says, "Zac Robinson will have something to say about the No. 2 job," and he also said, "I see no reason why Josh can't be the No. 2," even though he's thrown just 36 passes in the last three years and none last year when the 49ers cut him before the season and he joined the Browns at the end of the season.

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh, Johnson's college coach at San Diego, had no room on a roster that had a first-rounder in Alex Smith and a second-rounder in Colin Kaepernick. But Johnson has hooked up with another one of his old coaches.

Gruden was in his last year as offensive assistant under brother Jon Gruden in Tampa Bay when the Bucs drafted the 6-3, 210-pound Johnson in the fifth round of the 2008 draft and has carried a torch for him ever since.

"He's smart and he's got a big, live arm. He's got a rifle and he can run fast," Gruden said. "I liked him in Tampa. My brother liked him. I think it's a case where he just hasn't had a lot of snaps. He's had a few shots here and there but never a steady diet of work. I'm excited to have him because he can run a lot of plays that are being run in the NFL."

When the Grudens left and the Bucs drafted Josh Freeman the next year in the first round, Jay said the new staff gave Johnson a package to run that included the zone read. Gruden has taken it slowly, but he thinks Johnson could make him diversify the playbook.

"We ran it maybe one or two times last year," Gruden said. "We'll see how it goes and where everyone is, but you could definitely see Josh doing some of that. The zone read certainly gets the numbers in favor of the offense. It's good to be able to show something a little different if he was your No. 2 and he had to go into the game. The big thing he has to do is get the basics of what we do first, and then it may be kind of fun to look at."

Johnson has completed just 54 percent of his career 177 passes and Gruden thinks he can improve that percentage with reps.  

"He's got some accuracy issues and he throws pretty much every ball hard," Gruden said. "But he's got a ton of upside. A lot of natural talent and he's a bright kid. We're lucky. We've got a pretty smart quarterbacks room and he'll be one of the smartest guys in it."

Gruden says the timing couldn't have been better in order for Johnson to make a run at the backup job.

"I'm really happy we've got him now because we can put him right on the board in phase one and go from there," Gruden said of the offseason program that begins April 15. "We'll get him on the field with his drops and his footwork. It’s going to be exciting for him and for us, too."

ROLAND RE-SIGNS: The Bengals re-signed their eighth free agent off their own roster Friday when they re-upped backup right tackle Dennis Roland, better known as the extra tackle in their heavy package that helped running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis to an NFL-leading 14-for-15 on third-and-one.

Since '09 the 6-9, 322-pound Roland has played in every Bengals game and has been called by offensive line coach Paul Alexander his best technician. According to Pro Football Focus, 79 of Roland's 108 snaps came on run plays last year.

"Dennis is a solid pro who has helped us make the playoffs three of the last four years,” Alexander said in a news release. “He’s a known quantity, a guy we have relied on, and we are glad to have him back for 2013.”


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