TAMPA — With his erratic preseason performance in the books, Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Josh Freeman remains confident the offense is poised to start fast when the games count Sept. 8. The fifth-year quarterback won’t dress for Thursday night’s fourth exhibition game against the Redskins, finishing the preseason with a 56.7 passer rating in limited snaps. Freeman completed only 12-of-26 passes while suffering nine sacks. “There’s such a difference between preseason and the regular season,’’ Freeman said Wednesday. “Everything’s amped up. Obviously, things could have gone better in the preseason, but I feel we’ve been practicing at a very high level.’’ With Freeman setting single-season franchise records for passing yards (4,065) and touchdown passes (27), Tampa Bay’s offense ranked ninth in the NFL last year. Pro Bowl RB Doug Martin finished the 2013 preseason with only three carries as the cautious Bucs avoided the kind of major injuries that have been prevalent throughout the league this month.
“We got a lot accomplished as an offense,’’ said Freeman, entering the final year of his rookie contract. “We’re excited to make it through with everyone healthy. I know our guys and the fight they’ve got in them. It happens every preseason. It’s a grind of early mornings, long days, hitting each other, games that don’t really count. Everybody’s eager. We’re excited about the team we have. We’re ready to go out and play someone for real.’’ Tuneup time As a group, the Bucs are ready to flip the playbook page and begin working on the season opener against the Jets. But for at least two defensive linemen, exhibition games have served a useful purpose. Veteran DE Trevor Scott, signed last week as a free agent, made a memorable Tampa Bay debut in Saturday’s 17-16 victory at Miami, posting three sacks in his short stint. Scott, who has played with the Raiders and Patriots, is trying to survive the weekend as all NFL clubs must reduce their rosters to the 53-man limit by Saturday — when Scott turns 29. “In my position, I need to make plays every time I’m on the field,” Scott said. “I’d really like to stick around with this organization. ... I think they’re going to go far in this league.’’ Extended game action helped third-year DE Da’Quan Bowers get him in shape. “I played a lot of snaps this preseason and I’m glad,’’ said Bowers, who has been credited with three tackles. “I needed it, not only for conditioning but just to get myself in the swing of things,” said Bowers, credited with three tackles. “Coming off an injury (torn Achilles) and not really being able to have a camp last year, I didn’t know what to expect. This preseason helped me.’’ Happy returns A year after a torn ACL led to his release by the Broncos, WR Eric Page appears to be closing in on a roster spot with the Bucs. The former Toledo standout is averaging 30.5 yards on kick returns and 9.8 yards on punt returns. “I think Page has done a good job,’’ coach Greg Schiano said. “He looks like he belongs. Hopefully, he can do it again tomorrow.’’ The Bucs were interested in Page in 2012 before he signed with Denver. Now, he’s thankful for another opportunity the second time around. “I’m just glad to be here,’’ Page said. “Coach Schiano and (GM) Mark Dominik have shown a lot of trust in me.’’ Extra points The Bucs signed WR Jordan Norwood and waived DE Aaron Morgan, who played 11 games for Tampa Bay last season. Norwood caught 36 passes for the Browns in the past two seasons. ...Schiano said rookie QB Mike Glennon will start Thursday evening. ...The Redskins (3-0) are seeking their first undefeated preseason since 1985. ...Second-year CB Leonard Johnson leads the Bucs with 11 solo tackles in the preseason.