Flynn's Focus

August 5 – Several Tampa Bay players turned in impressive performances during the first week of training camp, but some stood out more than others did. After a two-week hiatus, another installment Flynn's Focus is back just in time to discuss the five Bucs players that caught Pewter Report editor Jim Flynn's eye during the first week of training camp.

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Speed has been a popular topic amongst Bucs fans and the media. Some say Tampa Bay lacks speed at the wide receiver position, but I didn't see it during the first week of training camp. Tampa Bay has a legitimate speedster in second-year wide receiver Frank Murphy. The former Kansas State Wildcat is the second fastest player on the team next to rookie WR Aaron Lockett, but Murphy told me last week that he was "the fastest" player on Tampa Bay's roster.

Murphy caught my attention during Tampa Bay's mini-camp last year, but he hit a wall in training camp in terms of his transition from running back at college to a wide receiver in the pros. But Murphy, who is arguably the hardest working player on the team, has made huge strides since last year. He is a legitimate deep threat and he is one of the few players that can go the distance if the quarterback hits him in stride on a slant or drag pattern.

The one thing I've wanted to see is how Murphy handles press coverage from a cornerback. Bucs rookie CB Tim Wansley tested him during a one-on-one practice (WR vs. CB) session last week, and Murphy showed me all I needed to see. When the quarterback snapped the ball, Murphy expected Wansley to bump him at the line of scrimmage, but he didn't. Instead, Murphy bumped Wansley with both hands to his chest and knocked the former Georgia Bulldog to the ground. Murphy has also displayed good hands and good route running, although he still could improve in that area. "The Bucs don't have a deep threat". Don't believe that sentiment for a second. If Murphy can continue to improve, he'll see plenty playing time in Bucs head coach Jon Gruden's offense. And if he can stay healthy, Murphy will provide Tampa Bay with the deep threat and speed-guy that so many think they're missing.

Remember how many times I mentioned how impressive Bucs CB Dwight Smith was throughout Tampa Bay's mini-camp workouts? Well, Bucs rookie safety Jermaine Phillips had this type of performance last week.

Phillips, who's 6-foot-1, 214-pound frame bodes well him in coverage, displayed good coverage skills and he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. He's a physical player and while he's third on the team's depth chart at the free safety position, Phillips showed he could play at both strong and free safety effectively. Phillips received extra reps due to the absence of second-string FS John Howell. While Howell is tending to a "personal matter", he may not want to stay away too long as Phillips took advantage of Howell's absence.

While Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell have received most of the attention in the newspapers, Bucs WR Joe Jurevicius, who is the team's No. 3 receiver, put on quite a show last week. Jurevicius showed great hands during drills and he knows how to use his 6-foot-5, 230-pound frame to his advantage. He may not be the fastest receiver on the team, but Jurevicius is faster than advertised. He uses his body, not speed, to separate himself from defenders.

Jurevicius isn't afraid to go over the middle of the field, either. That's where he's catching most of his passes, and while he won't take Johnson or McCardell's spot in the starting rotation, Jurevicius may be the beneficiary of the attention those two veteran receivers get from defenses.

What could Bucs Pro Bowl CB Ronde Barber possibly do for an encore this season? Well, if his first week's performance is any indication, Barber, who intercepted a career-high 10 passes last year, could possibly haul in just as many, if not more this season.

Barber intercepted at least a handful of passes last week and he returned a couple of them for touchdowns. He's reading the quarterbacks well, which is allowing him to get a great jump on passes. Barber doesn't blow many interception opportunities – if he has a chance for the interception, he'll grab it more often than not.

Barber is only 5-foot-10, but he times jump balls better than any cornerback I've ever seen, which was one of former Bucs CB Donnie Abraham's weaknesses. During an 11-on-11 red zone practice, Barber met Jurevicius in the corner of the end zone for a jump ball. It wasn't Jurevicius' lack of effort, but rather Barber's perfect timing on his jump that allowed the six-year veteran corner to keep the ball out of Jurevicius' hands.

Tampa Bay second-string QB Rob Johnson looked the best out of all three quarterbacks last week. Johnson's mobility seems like it is a huge plus in Gruden's offense. There are a lot of designed rollouts in Gruden's offense, which Rob Johnson doesn't seem to mind running at all. Johnson has also improved on his pocket awareness and patience. He seems like he's getting comfortable behind the offensive line and when coverage breaks down, he's deadly accurate when throwing on the run.

While Bucs starting QB Brad Johnson didn't look bad last week, he did throw quite a few interceptions, which is something Rob Johnson didn't do. The one knock on Rob Johnson when he left Buffalo was that he looked good in practices and training camp, but he melted down in games. Until we see how Rob Johnson does in some preseason games, we can't possibly say that Brad Johnson should not be the starting quarterback on this football team. But with the most mobility, the strongest arm and the least amount of interceptions thrown, Rob Johnson is giving Brad Johnson a strong push for the starting job.

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All photos are courtesy of Pewter Report director of photography Cliff Welch unless noted otherwise. Click here to visit Welch's web site.

Copyright 2002 Pewter Report/

This story is intended to be read only by Club Insiders only and Sharing of the Club content with non-subscribers of this service can result in cancellation of your subscription to the service and/or further actions by the publishers.

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