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Giants’ Josh Johnson eager to shake off five years of backup QB rust

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) confers

New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) confers with teammate John Johnson (8) on the bench during the game against the Detroit Lions Sunday December 18, 2016 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Damian Strohmeyer via AP) Photo Credit: AP Images / Damian Strohmeyer

Think it’s been a long time since the Giants have been in a playoff game? Consider that it’s been even longer since Josh Johnson has thrown a meaningful NFL pass. Then consider that he’s the only backup quarterback on the Giants’ roster with Ryan Nassib having been placed on injured reserve last week.

If anything, that’s a reason to give Johnson a handful of snaps on Sunday against Washington. Especially since he joined the Giants late, claimed off waivers after the final cuts, and has never even taken a snap with this offense in a game situation. He has had limited work with them in practices as a third-stringer for most of the year.

“Obviously I would love that, but that’s not in my control,” Johnson said of the opportunity to play Sunday while other teams determine the Giants’ opponent in the first round of the playoffs.

“My job is to be prepared and be ready, which is the same thing I’ve been doing every week. The preparation doesn’t change, the readiness doesn’t change. It’s just about going out there and actually doing it.”

The last time Johnson did that — went out there and actually threw a regular-season pass — was in 2011 as a member of the Bucs. He appeared in one game for the Browns in 2012 but did not throw the ball (in typical Browns fashion, though, he was sacked). The last time he saw significant playing time was with the Sacramento Mountain Lions of the UFL in 2012.

He spent time with the Bengals, 49ers, Colts and Bills, all without appearing in a regular-season game, before landing with the Giants in September and spending most of this season as the third-stringer behind Eli Manning and Nassib. He’s been active for only two games so far this season, the second one coming last week after Nassib was lost for the year to elbow surgery.

Despite the lack of recent experience, Johnson, 30, said he is “most definitely” prepared to perform if he has to.

“I play football, man,” he said. “Football is football to me. That’s how I look at it. In practice, every time you have an opportunity to work on your craft, it’s about putting yourself in the mind frame where you get the reps. It’s not trying to make the situation too big or too small. Just do what you know and trust your training.”

It may never come to that. Nassib threw only 10 passes in his three years as Manning’s primary backup, never started a game and didn’t even play a snap this season. Manning will start his 199th consecutive regular-season game on Sunday, Ben McAdoo said, and his streak extends to 210 when you count playoff games.

Still, things happen in this league. The Raiders will have to go into the playoffs with a backup quarterback after Derek Carr was injured last week. Other teams have had to follow similar paths. Heck, Jeff Hostetler came off the bench to win a Super Bowl for the Giants.

“Every quarterback knows,” Johnson said. “When I did start five games [with the Bucs, four in 2009 and one in 2011], I went from being the last quarterback to the first quarterback in the matter of a week. I’ve been through it to know that anything can happen. To get ready, you have to stay ready.”

Johnson says he has been, going on five years now, and will continue to be for the Giants.

PLAYOFF PERSPECTIVE

The final two pieces of the Giants’ 2017 list of regular-season opponents will be added Sunday. With the Giants locked into second place in the NFC East, they will host the second-place team in the NFC North (the loser of Sunday night’s Packers-Lions game) and travel to the second-place team in the NFC South (either the Bucs or Saints). Beyond the home-and-home games against division opponents, the Giants will host the Rams, Seahawks, Chiefs and Chargers and travel to play the Cardinals, 49ers, Broncos and Raiders.

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