Flynn's Focus

April 30 - Four quarterbacks will compete for what will likely be three available spots on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster next season. Which three will make the team? While Brad Johnson is a lock as the team's starter, the second and third-string spots are wide open, We'll shed some light on Tampa Bay's quarterback quandary in this installment of Flynn's Focus.

Copyright 2003 Pewter Report/PewterReport.com

Tampa Bay has yet another quarterback quandary on its hands, and everyone wants to know how it will unfold before the upcoming season.

Last year, the Bucs' starting quarterback job was open for competition, but it didn't take long for Brad Johnson to beat out Rob Johnson during training camp.

The Bucs will start preparing for the 2003 season this weekend at the team's first three-day mini-camp, and unlike last year, Brad Johnson is clearly the starter.

The backup jobs are, however, up for grabs, and three QBs -- Shaun King, Jim Miller and rookie Chris Simms -- will be vying for the No. 2 and 3 quarterback spots this season.

So who has the edge heading into mini-camp?

While Miller is a 10-year veteran with starting experience, the former Chicago Bears signal-caller won't be able to throw at full velocity until late-June at the earliest, which will put him behind the rest of the group in terms of learning head coach Jon Gruden's offense.

Despite his injury, the Bucs like Miller a lot. The team has 10 years worth of game film on him and they're confident he'll digest Gruden's system from the sidelines and execute it once he's able to throw at 100 percent.

This will be King's second year in Gruden's system and the first time he's played in the same system for two consecutive seasons. Those two facts should give King the edge for the backup job behind Brad Johnson, but the Bucs' 1999 second-round draft pick is far from a lock to make the team.

King spent most of last season as the team's No. 3 quarterback behind Rob Johnson, and in his only start last season, King turned in one of the worst performances of his career against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If Miller is ready to throw on schedule, King could turnout to be nothing more than an insurance policy.

While Simms is at a disadvantage because of his lack of experience, his third-round draft status alone almost guarantees him a spot on Tampa Bay's 53-man roster this season.

After all, the Bucs have surrendered eight draft picks since 2000 and only four of the team's eight 2002 draft picks made the team last season, so unless Simms completely lays an egg in training camp and preseason, he'll likely be given at least one year to prove he's the team's quarterback of the future. Heck, if wide receiver Marquise Walker received a one-year grace period, Simms would almost certainly get one, too.

If Simms doesn't make the team, the Bucs could place him on its five-man practice squad, but he wouldn't likely stay there as the possibility of a team picking him up and signing him would be extremely high.

Some people weren't thrilled with Tampa Bay's decision to draft Simms, and although I wasn't too impressed with him at Texas, I'm willing to give him a chance. If Miller is indeed ready to throw on schedule, he'd certainly be an upgrade over Rob Johnson. And if King can take advantage of playing in the same offensive system for two consecutive years, he could earn a backup spot.

The Bucs had three quarterbacks on its roster from mini-camp to the end of last season, but there's always a chance Gruden could dedicate four roster spots to quarterbacks if they perform extremely well, and that, of course, would make this discussion a moot point.

But chances are the Bucs will keep just three quarterbacks on its 53-man roster this season, and that should make the battle for the two backup jobs behind Brad Johnson intriguing ones.

It all starts this weekend at the Bucs' three-day mini-camp.


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