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Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cowboys sub QB Johnson embraces anti-Romo style

Brad Johnson, subbing for injured Dallas QB Tony Romo, made his first start since 2006 last weekend. He lost to the Rams.

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Brad Johnson, subbing for injured Dallas QB Tony Romo, made his first start since 2006 last weekend. He lost to the Rams.

TAMPA — Sunday at Texas Stadium, "The Bull" will attempt to replace the jackrabbit.

Former Bucs quarterback Brad Johnson finds himself in the driver's seat of the touted Dallas Cowboys offense, charged for the second straight week with replacing injured Pro Bowler Tony Romo, against Tampa Bay, no less.

The two are very different quarterbacks.

Romo loves to throw on the run in the Cowboys' wide-open passing attack. Johnson feels most at home ensconced in the pocket. Romo can leave pass rushers grasping at air with his elusiveness. Johnson, 40, likely wouldn't win a footrace with his offensive linemen.

So, the two couldn't be more different. So what?

"Tony is more of a creative kind of player," said Johnson, who played at Florida State (1987-91). "I'm a pocket guy, and I try to get completions and move the chains and take my shots when I get them. But I've had success doing that.

"There's different ways to do it, from Tony's style to everybody (else) throughout the whole league."

It's hard to argue with Johnson. He did win a Super Bowl with the Bucs in 2002, playing the only way he knows how. Old and slow certainly isn't how Jon Gruden remembers Johnson.

"I love that guy," the Bucs coach said. "I've texted him and talked to him a few times periodically. We've stayed in touch over the years. He's special to me, and he always will be. He's a world champion, and I wish him the best. He's a stud."

Whether the 17-year veteran plays that way against a fierce Tampa Bay defense is another matter. Johnson, more than most, knows what he's up against. He struggled to rattle off the names of the Bucs' top defenders — not surprising given the unit has been overhauled since his departure in 2005 — but what he witnessed during this week's film study looked awfully familiar.

"You have Derrick Brooks there and Ronde Barber and, um … " he said. "Well, the team is pretty much gone from when we won the whole thing (in the 2002 season). But a lot of the coaches are still there.

"The thing about it is, they've always played hard, and everyone's always in the right position. That's the key to that defense. They're running to the ball and getting off the field really early.''

Johnson said that defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin "has gone to the laboratory and added a few new things. He's added a few wrinkles over the years, especially over the last year and a half."

That's not going to make things easier on Johnson one week after he struggled mightily in his first start since 2006. In an upset loss to the Rams, Johnson threw three interceptions and was sacked three times.

The potent, star-studded Dallas offense, featuring receiver Terrell Owens and tight end Jason Witten, scored 14 points. It was the lowest total of the season for an offense that averages 27.

As usual where the Cowboys are concerned, Johnson will have to fix the miscues while the world watches. Everything, including the coverage, is bigger in Texas. After a year and a half in the shadows, Johnson has been thrust into the center ring of the Cowboy circus.

"I never realized Dallas as being America's team until I got here," he said.

But Johnson is steady-handed. Considering he has seen it all, he should be.

"I think I've been able to win for most coaches and teams that I've played for," he said. "I led three teams to the playoffs and won a Super Bowl. I've had some tough times, but over my career I've been consistent."

Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@sptimes.com.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Cowboys sub QB Johnson embraces anti-Romo style 10/24/08 [Last modified: Monday, October 27, 2008 4:50pm]

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