Bengals backup quarterbacks John Skelton and Josh Johnson figured prominently in this week’s Hard Knocks, and HBO’s reality show about the NFL didn’t pull any punches in explaining why these two men are competing for a backup job, rather than being starters.
Skelton, the former Cardinals starter who is now competing to back up Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, appeared to struggle with the terminology in the new offense.
“He’s slow calling the plays, he’s slow getting to the line,” offensive coordinator Jay Gruden said. “John needs to be smart to win the job.”
Skelton admitted he feels like he’s “playing catch-up” as a new guy in Cincinnati, and Gruden explained that Skelton needs to show a better mastery of the offense if he wants to beat out Johnson.
“Josh is slightly in front, just because of his knowledge of the system, his comfort level with the system,” Gruden said. “I had him in Tampa Bay for one year in 2008, so he knows the terminology.”
At the same time, Johnson is a long way from being the kind of passer NFL teams want their quarterbacks to be.
“He has some issues that he needs to work out. Accuracy is one of them,” Gruden said of Johnson.
Added head coach Marvin Lewis, “I’ve never seen so many incompletions. His accuracy is just horrible.”
You don’t often hear coaches describe their players as “horrible,” but that’s because you don’t often get the kind of access to NFL teams that Hard Knocks provides. It remains one of the most entertaining hours on television for that reason, and for moments like these:
— Rookie Margus Hunt, a former shot putter from Estonia, got a surprise visit from his girlfriend, who traveled from half a world away to see him. Bengals owner Mike Brown said, “We drafted the Estonian kid, and I worry because, does he have friends?”
— Bengals running backs coach Hue Jackson told Orson Charles, who is attempting to make a transition from tight end to fullback, that he needs to get better in a hurry if he wants to make the 53-man roster. “You gotta f–kin do it, or you won’t be here,” Jackson said.
— Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, chatting with Dalton during a joint practice between the two teams, said teammate Tony Gonzalez is getting time off from training camp because he’s, “like, 50 years old.”
— Jon Gruden talking about how jealous he always was that Jay, his little brother, “could do everything better than me.” Although Jon has accomplished more as a coach, Jay was a better athlete and better quarterback than Jon, and it still seems to burn Jon that his younger brother once beat him in a race around their parents’ neighborhood.