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Brad Johnson still Bucs’ man

LAKE BUENA VISTA – Brad Johnson has played sparingly in Tampa Bay’s two preseason games, compiling modest statistics that haven’t changed his status as the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback.

Johnson played seven plays against Miami last Monday night, then worked 18 plays – spread over two series – in Friday night’s 20-0 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars.

Coach Jon Gruden wasn’t ready Saturday to declare the 11th-year pro will be his starter when Tampa Bay opens the regular season against New Orleans on Sept. 8.

But judging by the coach’s comments about how he intends to split playing time the remainder of the preseason, it’s clear Rob Johnson and Shaun King have not closed the gap between themselves and the leading candidate.

Traditionally, starting quarterbacks play a half or three quarters in the third preseason game. That may not be the case for Brad Johnson when the Bucs play the Washington Redskins this week.

“I’ve never worked the preseason with maybe the same formula that some guys do. I think the preseason is a great opportunity to get (playing time) for your other quarterbacks as well,” Gruden said.

“During the regular season, I’ve been on teams the last three or four years where one guy takes every snap for 16 or 17 games. We need to get some playing time for all of our quarterbacks, and we’re going to do that in every one of these preseason games.”

Brad Johnson has completed 8 of 17 passes for 105 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions in limited action. He was 6-of-12 for 97 yards and produced a field goal on one of his two drives against the Jaguars.

Rob Johnson has thrown a touchdown pass in both preseason games, but has also been erratic. King threw an interception and lost a fumble on his first two series Friday night, but ended on a positive note by throwing a 31-yard TD pass to Marquise Walker.

Gruden’s first order of business after replacing Tony Dungy as coach was overhauling an offense that ranked 30th in rushing and 26th overall last season.

The Bucs ran for 182 yards, but allowed seven sacks and finished with 63 yards passing against Miami. They made a concerted effort to be more productive through the air against Jacksonville, throwing for 254 yards and gaining just 35 on the ground on 21 carries.

“We felt there were some things we could take advantage of with their secondary, and I think we did a good part of that when we were in there,” Brad Johnson said. “We wanted to throw the ball a lot early, so we got away from our running game.”

Johnson completed six passes of more than 10 yards, including three of more than 20 to Keenan McCardell, Keyshawn Johnson and Ken Dilger.

“Just about every one of our passes has a deep element to it based on the coverage you see, based on the type of protection you get. It kind of depends on where you go with it,” Gruden said.

“We did try to push it a little bit. We were able to connect on some intermediate throws and some, I guess you could call, vertical throws. We want to try to get six to seven explosive plays per game.”

Notes: Ten players were included on Saturday’s injury report, including DT Warren Sapp, who did not make the trip to Jacksonville because of swelling on his left knee. Gruden said he should be able to practice this week and play against the Redskins. … DT Buck Gurley could be sidelined a couple of weeks with a sprained left ankle.