TAMPA — He might be known for years to come as the Bucs' other Josh, but Saturday night against Jacksonville, quarterback Josh Johnson was the main man.
Subbing for injured starter Josh Freeman, Johnson played admirably. He directed three scoring drives and connected on 9 of 14 passes for 122 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions in two-plus quarters.
Granted, it was preseason, but all of Johnson's play came against the first-string Jaguars defense. It was the kind of performance that should give the Bucs some confidence if Freeman's thumb is not healed by the season opener against Cleveland.
"I'm really excited about where we are with Josh," Bucs coach Raheem Morris said. "Josh showed a lot of poise, and that really started in the offseason. He really worked hard and showed that he's comfortable and poised with this offense."
Johnson wasted no time. On the first offensive play, he pump-faked and hit Mike Williams down the right sideline for a 53-yard pass into Jaguars territory. The Bucs later scored on Connor Barth's 51-yard field goal.
Johnson's touchdown drive was short, thanks to Barrett Ruud's 80-yard interception return to the Jaguars 19-yard line. Johnson hit Jerramy Stevens on a 7-yard pass then two plays later bootlegged right and hit an open Earnest Graham for the 2-yard score.
"It was just a play-action pass, and Earnest got past the defense," Johnson said. "He got open and made a good catch."
Even with the rushing game mostly in neutral, Johnson was a bright spot. On a third-down pass in the first quarter, he scrambled and bobbled the ball. But he caught his fumble and turned it into an 18-yard first-down run.
Johnson finished the first half 6-of-8 for 83 yards. He led another field-goal drive to start the second half, thanks mainly to three straight completions.
"I was excited to see how we came out in the second half," Johnson said. "We always say around here that we are completion driven. Find a way to get a completion every time. We were able to do that and get a field goal, although we wanted a touchdown."
In three preseason games, Johnson is 23-of-37 for 307 yards with two TDs and one interception.
It was only a little more than two quarters of a game that didn't count, but Saturday was another chance for Johnson to prove he can play if needed.
"I know my role on this team," he said. "I'm the second-string quarterback. My job is to keep this ship sailing. Don't let the ship dock. Keep things moving. When I'm called upon, that's what I have to do."