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First start for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Johnson all about surviving

Josh Johnson will make his first NFL start today against the Redskins (in case you haven't heard), and he is more focused on being a survivor than a savior.

Traditionally, young Bucs quarterbacks in this situation haven't fared all that well. Johnson is in his second year, which might help a little. And his ability to make plays with his feet could be an advantage.

The perception remains that Johnson is just keeping the seat warm for first-round pick Josh Freeman, who will be the No. 2 quarterback today. But if Johnson plays well and wins some games during the next few weeks, he will be the most popular guy in town.

"My No. 1 advice … was just protect yourself," said WR Antonio Bryant. "I told him all that going to the club and stuff, you got to cut that, cut it out. Go to the movies. You know you got to substitute some things because your situation has changed. Your face is a lot more recognizable.

"When I first got here, nobody knew who Antonio Bryant was. They didn't really bother me. It was maybe after that Chicago game my life kind of went back to fast speed. It was, 'Hey, how you doing guy?' from the mail lady to whomever."

So which Bucs quarterbacks had the best and worst debuts? Let's take a look:

TRENT DILFER, at 49ers, Oct. 23, 1994

Sam Wyche took a big bullet by drafting Dilfer when he unexpectedly fell to the Bucs with the sixth overall pick. Before the draft, Wyche was perfectly content to try to develop Craig Erickson.

But what a colossal mistake to give Dilfer his first NFL start at Candlestick Park against the 49ers, who were nearing the end of their dynasty.

Dilfer went 7-of-23 for 45 yards, with one interception and a 21.8 rating. The Bucs lost 41-16, and Dilfer did not finish the game.

SHAUN KING, vs. Vikings, Dec. 6, 1999

Ah, the King and his court.

A St. Petersburg native and hometown hero, King took over the huddle after Dilfer suffered a broken collarbone at Seattle. King made his first start against the Vikings on Monday Night Football.

King went 11-of-19 (57.9 percent) for 93 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked twice and had an 83.9 passer rating.

With some fans donning crowns, King went on to finish the season 5-1 as a starter before losing to the Rams 11-6 in the NFC Championship Game.

CHRIS SIMMS, at Saints, Oct. 10, 2004

The Bucs got off to an 0-4 start behind Super Bowl QB Brad Johnson. Veteran Brian Griese was more prepared to play and win. But coach Jon Gruden was looking to sell hope and decided to give Simms his first NFL start against the Saints.

Simms didn't make it to halftime. In the first quarter, Simms was hit hard when RT Todd Steussie gave a matador block. Steussie never started another game for the Bucs.

Simms suffered a separated left (throwing) shoulder. He finished 5-of-8 for 68 yards (62.5 percent) with no touchdowns, no interceptions and an 89.6 rating. Griese entered the game and led the Bucs to a 20-17 win.

BRUCE GRADKOWSKI, at Saints, Oct. 8, 2006

The sixth-round pick from Toledo was an afterthought when the season started. But Simms began the season 0-3 and suffered a ruptured spleen in a loss to the Panthers. Rather than go to veteran Tim Rattay, Gruden went to Gradkowski.

It looked like a great choice.

In his first NFL start, Gradkowski went 20-of-31 for 225 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a 107.6 passer rating. But the Bucs lost 24-21, and Gradkowski got progressively worse throughout the season, going 3-8 as a starter.

First start for Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Josh Johnson all about surviving 10/03/09 [Last modified: Sunday, October 4, 2009 10:08am]
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