Cincinnati Bengals Bubble Watch: Josh Johnson vs. John Skelton

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIJuly 25, 2013

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 04:  John Skelton #19 of the Arizona Cardinals turns to hand off against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on November 4, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Packers defeated the Cardinals 31-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Cincinnati Bengals have just entered their first day of training camp, and as we all know, with training camp come roster battles.

One of the most important—and most overlooked— battles during the following weeks is the fight between John Skelton and Josh Johnson for backup quarterback.

Yes, the Bengals are set with Andy Dalton as the incumbent starter. However, if the unthinkable should happen, they need the right player to step in.

Both Skelton and Johnson have had their fair share of struggles in their three and four years in the league, respectively. Skelton started briefly in 2012 and Johnson has not seen a start since 2011. There is a reason that these two players have not logged much playing time—they just are not very good throwers of the football.

Last season, Skelton threw the ball 201 times, completing 109 passes for 1,132 yards and a 54.2 completion percentage. He threw for two touchdowns against nine interceptions for a dismal passer rating of 55.4.


However, Johnson has not fared much better in his brief stints as a starter.

Going back to 2011, Johnson threw 36 passes, completing 19 of them for 246 yards and a 52.8 completion percentage. In that span, he threw one touchdown and two interceptions for a 60.6 passer rating.

Not much better than Skelton.

Over the course of their short careers, Skelton actually has a better overall passer rating—his 63.0 trumps Johnson's 57.7. A major factor for these low ratings is the fact that both of these men have struggled to take care of the football.

Skelton has thrown 25 interceptions over the course of his career—Johnson has thrown 10. When factoring in how many times they have thrown the football, they are rather similar. Skelton has thrown an interception 4.15 percent of the time he attempts a pass. Johnson has thrown a pick 5.64 percent of the time.

To put this stat into perspective, Dalton has thrown an interception just 2.7 percent of the time over 1,044 career attempts.

So, with two prospects with mediocre arms jockeying for position as the new backup quarterback, how do we distinguish a winner?

That would be by what each can do with their legs, of course. If these players cannot be trusted to put the ball in the air, they must gain positive yards on the ground.

Every Bengals fan saw Dalton running for his life more than once last season. Sometimes these scrambles resulted in huge plays and sometimes they resulted in big losses.

Dalton is more athletic than many casual NFL fans would assume—he actually rushed for 1,611 yards while at TCU. So, if he finds himself in trouble behind the line of scrimmage, his backup would have similar issues.

Johnson is easily the front-runner in this department—Skelton cannot seem to get out of his own way at times when scrambling.

Let's take a look back during Johnson's time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to determine why he has the best chance to win the backup quarterback spot for the Bengals this season.

Johnson lines up in the shotgun formation on this 3rd-and-5. The Carolina Panthers are showing blitz.

After taking the snap, the Panthers retreat into coverage and the front four closes the pocket around Johnson in a hurry. This has the makings of a coverage sack written all over it.

Johnson dashes out of the closing pocket, all the while keeping his eyes up the field. He sees a wide-open running lane toward the sideline.

With defenders closing in on him, Johnson uses his acceleration to get to the edge quickly, thus giving the defenders poor angles while they attempt to bring him down.

While keeping his eyes downfield, Johnson speeds up the sideline and has not yet been touched by the time he reaches the first-down marker. With defenders closing in, he waits to stay in bounds until the last second.

Johnson is finally pushed out of bounds by a defender, but not before he has gained 14 yards and a first down.

This is the exact type of play that could easily separate Johnson from Skelton in their battle for the Bengals' backup quarterback position. If both of these players continue to show mediocrity passing the football, someone must break out in a different way.

Watch for Johnson to put a stranglehold on this position if he can break open a few of these runs during training camp and preseason.

All screen shots courtesy of NFL Game Rewind.


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