Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE
Lewis, 27, is a special teams ace type and slot/nickel DB that has experience in the Seahawks' system from his three seasons with the team from 2009-2011. Lewis appeared in 32 regular season games over those three seasons, but was waived as the Seahawks cut down to 75 players after training camp this year, due to a lingering knee injury.
The 5'10, 190 pound DB had a pretty big role with the Hawks in 2010 when the Seahawks prominently featured their Bandit package of 7 defensive backs, and played significant snaps in 2011 as well as a nickel or dime back. His effectiveness was limited in 2011 because of his lingering knee issues, but if those have been sorted out he certainly has value as a core special teamer and backup DB, especially if the Richard Sherman/Brandon Browner suspensions go through (even more especially if they go through at the same time).
Josh Johnson is a player that I've been interested in for the Seahawks for some time, actually, and it surprised me that Seattle never really took a look at him once he was cut from the 49ers after the preseason. I had originally thought he would make a good 'competition' quarterback to push Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job, but now that Russell Wilson looks to be firmly entrenched as the starter for the foreseeable future, Johnson makes even more sense as a veteran backup.
When I say veteran, it might be a bit misleading -- Johnson is 26 years old, one year older than recently released Josh Portis, but is already into his fifth season of NFL experience - coaching, preparation, etc. He has the skill-set that this front office really seems to look for in their quarterbacks -- very mobile (ran a 4.53 at the combine in the 40, for instance), with a very quick, explosive first couple of steps (at the combine he registered a 1.53 in the 10-yard split, which is insane - Patrick Peterson, as one example, had a 10-yard split of 1.49 in the 40 while running a 4.31 40). Now, we all know that running isn't everything for a QB, but this front office values mobility and an ability to extend plays, and that's something Josh Johnson has.
He also has a very strong arm and has demonstrated good accuracy both on the run and from the pocket. Obviously, his NFL numbers are mediocre and there's surely a reason he's currently a free agent -- I don't want to talk him up like he's some sort of hidden All Pro like Kurt Warner was, but his skillset and physical attributes, combined with the offenses he has experience in, lead me to think he'd be an intriguing backup option for Russell Wilson. In theory, Seattle wouldn't have to design a 'backup QB' type of offense in the event that Wilson were to get hurt.
Going back to his college days at San Diego, the last time he was a full-time starter with consistency, he was a very efficient and productive passer in a Jim Harbaugh designed, vertical passing attack type offense. In 2006, Johnson passed for 3,320 yards and 34 touchdowns, and ran 720 yards and 11 touchdowns. He led the FCS in total offense, passing efficiency, passing yards, and points responsible for. In 2007, his senior year, Johnson finished the season with 2,988 yards and a school-record 43 touchdowns passing to only one interception, with 726 yards and two touchdowns rushing. Though many don't give a crap about passer rating, it's still worth noting he still holds the record for the highest career passer efficiency (176.68) in NCAA Division-I football history: this is something that the Seahawks do take into consideration with their run-based, play-pass philosophy. Protect the football, execute shot plays, movement from their QBs.
Now, I know his college stats don't mean anything - it was a lower level of competition and he hasn't exactly thrived in the pros, but as said, my interest is more about the system he thrived in than the body of work he's put together in Tampa. You've seen the offense Harbaugh runs in San Francisco, and it's fairly similar to the one Seattle runs, in theory, save for the more present vertical game for the Seahawks (which seems to be changing drastically now that Kaepernick is the starter).
Also, current Stanford head coach David Shaw was Johnson's offensive coordinator in 2006 at San Diego before going to Stanford, and if you've watched the Cardinal's offense you'll know it's a pro-style with a lot of heavy sets and play-action, bootlegs, tight ends are featured alongside a strong run game. Very similar to what the Seahawks run.
In researching the San Diego offense that Johnson thrived in, I came across this scouting report that was attempting to gauge what Harbaugh would do in San Francisco, and sure enough, it's pretty much exactly the same thing he brought to the pros from San Diego and Stanford.
"The thing that stood out the most to me [while watching tape of their offense] was the fact that San Diego's rushing game was extremely solid as well. Harbaugh is known as a "QB-friendly" coach, but his running backs performed at high levels for the Toreros. It was extremely hard finding video of San Diego's offense, but the videos that I came across showed a superior strategy against opposing defenses.
Harbaugh appeared to spread the field real well with the play calling, getting play makers in the open field with mismatches. More often than not, I saw safeties guarding receivers on the outside, which as well all know, normally doesn't work out well for the defense. I noticed really stout play calling in terms of the most talented individuals seeing the ball often. Bubble screens were a big part of San Diego's success under Harbaugh."
The report goes on to stipulate that, obviously, the talent level at D-2 is much different so you can't really just look at the raw numbers, but...
"That said, you need an offensive system that is going to utilize that talent, and the talent of others around him. The roll out formations, double tight end spreads, and mix matching of different plays within the same formation seemed to keep defenses on their heels."
Harbaugh is known for his multiplicity in formations and for scheme tweaks so, apropos of nothing, this was a hell of a scouting report.
Anyway - the toolset that Johnson has - ridiculous athleticism, a strong arm by all accounts, an ability to make quick decisions, and - from the scouting I've done - an ability and willingness to thread the needle, make him nice back-up option for what would likely be a league minimum salary.
I went back and scouted Johnson prior to last season when I thought that he might be an option for Seattle, before they brought in Tarvaris Jackson. I wrote then that I watched some game replays from 2009 and what I saw was a bit of what you'd expect. Young QB mistakes intermixed with really intriguing impressive plays. He's good in the pocket movement wise - he looks to have shiftiness in the pocket and escapes pressure easily. His arm looks strong and his accuracy is there. You see flashes of brilliance among the typical mistakes and head-scratching decisions you'd expect from a young quarterback surrounded by a young team.
For a young guy though, he makes some surprisingly veteran plays. This pass he threads over the linebacker in the only spot he could place is, it a good example. He looks calm but he's also aggressive and can put the ball on a dime 35 yards downfield like this touchdown pass. He keeps his eyes up and keeps plays alive when forced out the pocket. He can scramble.
Anyway - this is all probably much ado about nothing, but with Matt Flynn's cap hit moving to $7.25M in 2013, then $8.25M in 2014, a backup option is certainly something to start looking for. I don't know if Seattle would retain Flynn despite those money numbers (probably not), but on paper Johnson seems like a good candidate to be in the discussion, particularly now that Josh Portis doesn't really seem like a realistic option. I suppose it's also notable that he's Marshawn Lynch's cousin and they run camps in Oakland every summer together.