Photo by Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs
Texas A&M Football

How one NFL scout rates Jerrod Johnson

September 20, 2010

First, some perspective. The NFL scouting process rarely begins until a player’s senior season. For the most part, NFL scouts know very little about underclassmen and do very little scouting of underclassmen.

I’ve come to know several NFL scouts over the years and it’s happened on more than one occasion that I’ve asked about a hotshot sophomore or junior talent, only to have the scout tell me, “I haven’t watched him.”

In other words, right now is when Johnson’s game, health and leadership attributes are being studied, broken down, dissected and analyzed every which way by every NFL scouting department.

So I called a friend Monday morning to ask about the analysis and criticism being bandied about on football blogs, by beat writers and message boards when it comes to Aggies quarterback Jerrod Johnson not playing as well this year, compared to last. I asked about the off-season shoulder scope that seems to be the topic du jour when it comes to Johnson’s “not looking right,” as many have put it.

This scout told me he began scouting Jerrod via tape last spring. He then watched the spring game. The videotapes he said he broke down thus far from the 2009 season were the Arkansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, Baylor and Texas games. He also watched the first two games this year – although not the Florida International game yet.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Johnson's motion is cause for concern with scouts, but plenty of attributes make him a solid NFL prospect. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"right","Caption":"Johnson\u0027s motion is cause for concern with scouts, but plenty of attributes make him a solid NFL prospect.","MediaItemID":1342}
It’s interesting to note that three of the games scouted from 2009 were likely Johnson’s worst games – Colorado, Oklahoma and Arkansas. And of course the first two games this year vs. SFA and Louisiana Tech were productive, but not exactly against overwhelming opponents.

I promised the scout I wouldn’t talk about grades or where he might project Johnson. But several bullet-points were eye-openers.

Among them:
•    Regarding the “negatives” he would file to his club regarding Johnson if a report had to be done today: “He has a ‘loose’ release, which can lead to a breakdown of mechanics and delivery, but it also helps him get the ball out fast.”
•    This “loose” delivery also occasionally “will cause him to overshoot breaking receivers downfield. I saw him force some receivers to slow down or adjust on the run in games from last season.”

Translation: Before fans and critics knew Johnson had a shoulder scope in the off-season, and before expectations rose with Johnson’s tremendous 2009 season, he was doing the same things he’s done in the first three games this year. But last year, he was considered a rising gunslinger. Today, he’s “not looking right.”

I asked for more negatives: “He has a long, strong delivery, but I’d like a few tweaks in the mechanics. He likes to wait for his targets to uncover on his longer throws. That can lead to some issues dropping the ball to a spot.”

And what about the positives?

“He is poised, strong and has a rare combination of size and ability. There are no issues with him as a talent and as a person. He is all about football and will do everything in his power to be a great player. He’s a high-knee runner who is more evasive than explosive, but can step out of tackles. He can get the ball out under duress. He plays alert and has a feel for defenders around him. He controls the offense and knows where everyone is on the field. His team responds and respects him. He has the overall set to become a front-line NFL franchise quarterback.”

And some would have benched him Saturday night?

Johnson remains 10th nationally in total offense. Among Big 12 quarterbacks, the majority of whom arguably have better talent and offensive line experience than Johnson, here are the quarterbacks with lesser passer ratings than Johnson’s 139.2:

Texas’ Garrett Gilbert (120.3).

Oklahoma’s Landry Jones (138.6).

Texas Tech’s Taylor Potts (137.2).

Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert (129.82).

No doubt, Johnson had a horrible game at Kyle Field on Saturday. It’s impossible to consider 11-for-31 with four picks anything but horrible. Atrocious, really. But everything about the FIU game that went wrong through three quarters is what made things right in the fourth. All the things Johnson did that backfired through three quarters are the same things that helped him put 21-points and nearly 200-yards on the board in the fourth.

Andrew Kilzer, TexAgs Johnson is a well-respected leader in the locker room and his character will factor in to his pro stock. {"Module":"photo","Alignment":"left","Caption":"Johnson is a well-respected leader in the locker room and his character will factor in to his pro stock.","MediaItemID":1071}
He threw into double-coverage in the third-quarter and saw a fourth-consecutive possession end with an interception. He did the same thing in the fourth-quarter and hit Terrance McCoy perfectly for a touchdown.

He checked to a sideline route in the third-quarter and had the ball picked.  He did the same thing on the first play of the fourth-quarter and hit Jeff Fuller perfectly for a 17-yard completion that ignited the rally.

Forget that Mike Sherman said he never considered replacing Johnson – a player who could walk away from Aggieland owning every passing record and many total offense records. Consider what the NFL scout said about how Johnson’s team, “responds and respects” him.

“He’s had outstanding production,” the scout said. “He has rare character and leadership abilities.”

Johnson was not shaken nor deterred by the interceptions. In fact, he repeatedly has said that it only made him want to get back onto the field and make more, better throws. Younger, more inexperienced and respected players might have lost their heads and their teammates’ confidence. Johnson never did.

Only five quarterbacks in all of Division I college football have been sacked more than Johnson through three games. The combined record of those quarterbacks is 4-11 and they’ve thrown 19 interceptions. Jerrod is 3-0 and remains a national leader offensively despite the four picks. Protection must improve over the off-week. Johnson must improve. His timing and touch must improve. Multiple-interception nights must end.

But there is only one player who must guide the Aggies toward fulfilling higher expectations in Aggieland in 2010. It’s the same player whose play and leadership in 2009 raised those expectations.
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