LANDOVER, Maryland — The Washington Redskins have done two things lately: lose and start new quarterbacks. After losing their fourth consecutive game Sunday, they will turn to their fourth starting quarterback of the season. But this time it had nothing to do with an injury.
Redskins coach Jay Gruden said they will start Josh Johnson, who went from playing in a pickup basketball charity tournament a week ago to being in charge of a team whose playoff hopes remain faintly alive. Johnson relieved Mark Sanchez late in the third quarter of Washington’s 40-16 loss to the New York Giants.
Washington had been in control of the NFC East four weeks ago, leading second-place Dallas by two games. Since then, the Redskins (6-7) have lost four in a row as well as their top two quarterbacks to injuries. They remain in playoff contention, but with a defense that has allowed five of the past six opponents to gain more than 400 yards, they’ll need Johnson to play at a high level.
“We’ll get Josh ready to go,” said Gruden, who worked with Johnson in 2008 with Tampa Bay and in 2013 with Cincinnati. “Fortunately he’s been around me for a while and can handle the terminology, and he did a good job moving around.”
Sunday’s visit to the Jacksonville Jaguars will mark Johnson’s first start since Week 13 of the 2011 season. He had attempted two passes since that game — both a week after his most recent start — before relieving Sanchez on Sunday.
Johnson said he learned his teammates by playing a video game.
“I had to play Madden to learn just the other day,” he said. “You come in on a short week, you learn there’s so many moving parts. For me, I played Madden. I was able to get on the Madden and learn my teammates.”
What did he learn?
“I learned their names,” he said.
In his postgame news conference, Gruden was asked what didn’t work for Sanchez. The veteran completed 6 of 14 passes for 38 yards with two interceptions. He finished with a 10.7 passer rating.
“What did work?” Gruden said. “There’s nothing that worked. Nothing worked. So everything did not work.”
Johnson looked far more comfortable than Sanchez, completing 11 of 16 passes for 195 yards. Johnson threw for one touchdown and ran for another. He was also Washington’s leading rusher, with 45 yards on seven runs.
Sanchez managed only two first downs in his 10 series. He also threw a pick-six when a pass from his own end zone was tipped and returned 9 yards for a touchdown by Curtis Riley.
Sanchez started in part because he’d been in Washington two weeks longer than Johnson. Sanchez came aboard after Alex Smith broke two bones in his leg, then became the starter after Colt McCoy broke his leg Monday at Philadelphia. The Redskins signed Johnson a day later.
“We do understand how difficult it is for him to come in and in a short amount of time to play,” Gruden said.