RENTON, Wash. – Jerrod Johnson had to reconstruct the most essential element of playing quarterback: His throwing motion.
Johnson, who looks like a pro quarterback at 6-foot-5, 251 pounds, spent about seven months relearning how to throw a football and overhauling his motion for the first time in his career.
“I asked him to throw his old way, and he couldn’t do it so that’s a good thing,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Sunday. “He’s got a very good arm. He can really gun the football down the field. He’s got a great presence in that he’s such a big guy in the pocket. Totally different than our other guys.”
Johnson previously had stints with two other NFL teams – the Eagles in 2011 and Steelers in 2012 – but he never played in any games and therefore was allowed to participate in Seattle’s three-day rookie minicamp. The Seahawks signed Johnson in late April, so he entered with some familiarity with the playbook.
He will compete with Brady Quinn and Josh Portis for a backup quarterback spot; last season the Seahawks kept only two quarterbacks on the active roster.
The biggest change to Johnson’s throwing motion, at least to the naked eye, is the placement of his elbow. In college at Texas A&M Johnson often slung the ball from a low release point, almost sidearm, but he spent seven months retooling his motion before joining the Steelers last year. Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley also changed his grip in Pittsburgh.
“It’s fairly technical, but long story short I had to get my elbow in the right place to make the ball spin,” he said.
Johnson said he never seriously considered changing his motion before because he was successful with it, but he called the change a necessity after his college career.
“If I wanted to continue playing football,” he said, “I had to change what I was doing.”
He impressed many in Pittsburgh when he completed 14 of 21 passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns in limited time during the preseason. But the Steelers cut him before the season.
Johnson was once considered a Heisman candidate heading into his senior season at Texas A&M. He passed for 3,579 yards as a junior, completed 59.6 percent of his attempts and had a touchdown-to-interception ratio of nearly 4-to-1.
Yet his senior season unraveled as it went along. He was benched during the seventh game of the season after throwing nine interceptions in a three-game stretch. The Aggies had lost three straight under Johnson before Ryan Tannehill, Johnson’s replacement who would become a first-round draft pick, won his first five starts.
Texas A&M quarterbacks coach Tom Rossley revealed late in the season that Johnson’s shoulder injury stunted his arm strength and likely played a part in his ineffectiveness.
“All along, the doctors kept saying it would get better with time,” Rossley told The Dallas Morning News in 2011. “And we kept thinking, ‘OK, next week it’s going to be better.’ But it never really got to where we were hoping it would get.”
Now Johnson says he’s healthy and comfortable with his new throwing motion, one he hopes gives him a chance to stick around.
Carroll singled out Benson Mayowa, a defensive end from Idaho, as a guy who surprised him during the rookie minicamps. … Carroll said tight end Luke Willson, a fifth-round pick, would be the team’s fastest tight end once organized team activities start May 20. “What we wanted to see is if his speed would show up downfield,” he said, “and it certainly does.”