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October 5, 2009 @ 9:00 am
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Morris Sticking With Johnson

Written by Jim
Jim Flynn


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Bucs head coach Raheem Morris said Monday that second-year quarterback Josh Johnson would take more shots downfield with more playing experience. Johnson is scheduled to make his second professional start vs. the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris is sticking with second-year quarterback Josh Johnson despite the team's sub-par offensive production in a 16-13 loss to the Washington Redskins.

Johnson made the first start of his NFL career in Washington, completing 13-of-22 passes for 106 yards while tossing one touchdown and one interception.

The 2008 fifth-round draft pick averaged just 8.1 yards per reception vs. Washington. His longest completion of the game went for 27 yards. The Bucs offense was just 2-of-15 (15 percent) on third downs and produced 229 yards. The team's only touchdown drive of the game came on a possession that started on Washington's 15-yard line thanks to a turnover created by the defense in the first quarter.

Johnson appeared to be hesitant to throw the ball downfield, and Morris acknowledged that Monday after reviewing the game film.

"We called more shots in the second half trying to be aggressive and trying to get the ball to Antonio [Bryant]," said Morris. "We have to develop our confidence at the quarterback-receiver relationship to take those shots.

"That is just part of the development of Josh Johnson. "He'll do that and he'll take those timely chances."

The most impressive part of Johnson's debut was his mobility. He rushed for 41 yards on seven attempts vs. the Redskins.

"The things we saw from Josh were that he made plays with his feet," Morris said. "He had 41 yards rushing and he made some dynamic runs and he made something out of nothing on some plays, which were really good signs."

The 6-foot-3, 205-pound Johnson entered the NFL with significant playing and throwing experience. He completed 724-of-1,065 passes for 9,699 yards and tossed 113 touchdowns and 15 interceptions in 34 starts at the Division I-AA level.

But playing at the NFL level is has proven to be a big change of scenery for Johnson, whom Morris believes needs time to develop at the pro level.

"We're always going to play fearless, not cautious," said Morris. "Those are the coaching points you give him. The more experience and timing he gets, as a quarterback, you won't have to tell him when to do it. He'll know. Nobody tells Peyton Manning when to throw it down field. He just knows. And when he checks it down he checks it down and that's the result of the play.

"It's a matter of him having the confidence to step up and throw the ball. Josh is a confident kid, so it's not a character flaw. It's just a matter of going out and doing it. That was his first time doing it in the NFL. The last time he played in a regular season game was at the Div. I-AA level. Yesterday he was on the big stage in Washington."

Morris' decision to stick with Johnson means Tampa Bay's 2009 first-round pick, QB Josh Freeman, will remain the No. 2 signal caller for the 0-4 Bucs. That's a decision Morris explained and defended on Monday as Tampa Bay began preparing for its next opponent -- the 2-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

"Josh Johnson has earned the right to be named the starter," said Morris. "He did a good job of managing the game yesterday. He's going through his growing pains, but I've got to give him his opportunity. I can't base everything on what we want to see from Josh Freeman. He's not in there yet. He's number two and he's got to prepare like the number two.

"I'm not going to set a timetable for Josh Freeman. I'm preparing Josh Johnson to win our next football game."

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