Has Gruden decided who his staring quarterback is going to be? Maybe. Maybe not. All signs point to Brad Johnson as the starter, but Rob Johnson still has a chance. He'll have to turn in some awfully good performances in the last two games in order to keep the "competition" alive.
Brad Johnson had an excellent practice on Monday morning. He seemed much more relaxed than previous practices. Even his deep throws had some power behind them. He was accurate on the deep throws, too.
While Rob Johnson received some reps as the second-string quarterback, he wasn't too impressive. Johnson continues to make one great play and then one bad play. For example, he scrambled to the right sideline on a play and decided to launch the ball across to the left side of the field. Luckily for Rob, the pass fell incomplete, but it could've been intercepted. Quarterbacks are never supposed to throw back across their body or the field as Rob Johnson did on this particular play, and his coaches, including Gruden, let him know about it. But on the very next play, Rob Johnson showed great patience in the pocket and drilled a ball in-between the one and nine on WR Keyshawn Johnson's jersey No. 19 for a touchdown. Rob Johnson will not win the starting job if he continues this type of pattern. He needs to eliminate the mistakes and continue to make the fiery plays. This is easier said than done, but most of the mistakes Rob Johnson is making are avoidable and correctable.
On the few opportunities King had to throw, he was very accurate.
One of the reasons Brad Johnson looked so good on Monday morning was because of the outstanding play he received from some of his wide receivers. Bucs second-year WR Milton Wynn and WR Joe Jurevicius shined during the padded practice.
Wynn did a nice job of getting off of press coverage during 1-on-1 individual drills. He also showed he can use his 6-foot-2 frame to outmaneuver cornerbacks for the ball. But Wynn still is on the bubble. He has played well on special teams, but he dropped the one pass he's had thrown to him in the preseason on Friday night.
Jurevicius might leave Disney's Wide World of Sports complex as arguably the most impressive player of training camp. He hasn't dropped a ball (not while I was watching) and he's doesn't hesitate to go over the middle of the field, where Tampa Bay's defense tends to punish receivers. Jurevicius uses his body to get off of the line of scrimmage and get open on intermediate routes. He's not afraid to block downfield, either. On Saturday, keep an eye on Jurevicius, even if he doesn't have the ball. He'll impress you. I promise.
Tampa Bay rookie running back Travis Stephens showed solid pass-catching ability on Monday morning, which is something he's struggled with throughout training camp. The Bucs' offense threw to him on several screen plays, and Stephens was very effective in this role. But he fumbled a pitch from Brad Johnson during 11-on-11 drills, which was a bit disappointing. Stephens has certainly benefited from the extra playing time he's received while Michael Pittman has been dealing with a nagging ankle sprain.
Speaking of screen plays, Bucs offensive guard Russ Hochstein excels in blocking upfield, which helped turn some of the screen plays into big gains for the Bucs' offense. Hochstein might remind some of former Bucs right guard Frank Middleton, who was inconsistent in pass protection, but was a force when it came to run blocking.
Todd Washington started at right guard again on Monday in place of Cosey Coleman (knee). Washington had an impressive practice. He totally blew through Tampa Bay's defensive line on one play, which opened up a hole for RB Mike Alstott, who gained about 40 yards on the play. Like Hochstein, Washington is an excellent upfield blocker and might remind some of Middleton, too.
While the offense had some players who stood out on Monday morning, it was the defense that had the most spirited practice of the two units.
Bucs weakside linebacker Derrick Brooks missed Sunday's practice with a bruised shoulder, but he didn't appear to be suffering from that injury when he crushed tight end Todd Yoder in the middle of the field during an 11-on-11 pass play drill. It was by far the best hit of training camp. Brooks made another nice play later in the practice when he broke up a Brad Johnson pass intended for TE Mike Roberg. Not only did Brooks breakup the pass, but he drove Roberg into the ground, too.
Brooks' enthusiasm rubbed off on his defensive teammates. Bucs CB Dwight Smith broke up several passes and played like he had throughout the team's offseason mini-camps. Tampa Bay strongside linebacker Al Singleton and backup middle linebacker Nate Webster, who started in place of injured starter Shelton Quarles, played very physical, especially against the run.
"It was very spirited," Gruden said of defense's performance on Monday morning. "It started out in the 9-on-7 period. We had a good, physical run period. I haven't seen those guys react any differently since I've been in Tampa. But that's a rowdy crowd and they're excited to play."
Tampa Bay spent about 15 minutes working on punt return drills after the morning practice concluded. Bucs rookie safety Jermaine Phillips, who might cost PR Aaron Lockett a roster spot due to his inability to block as a wingman, looked like he was very focused on improving at this position. He was much more physical and he held his blocks much longer than he's been able to do in the first two preseason games. The Bucs want Lockett to replace Karl Williams for several reasons. Lockett is cheaper, faster and much more explosive than Williams. But it will be difficult for the "Rocket" to replace the "Truth" if Phillips and Co. cannot hold blocks, which will allow him to field the punts with some room to run.
Click here to discuss this topic and more with other PewterReport.com Club Insiders on the Pewter Message Boards.
Click here to ask one of the Pewter Report editors about this topic on the "Ask The Insiders" Message Boards.
All PewterReport.com 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/PewterReport.com
This story is intended to be read only by PewterReport.com Club Insiders only and TheInsiders.com. 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.
Get more analysis, inside information and expert commentary by subscribing to Pewter Report or by calling 1-800-881-BUCS(2827).
Looking for the largest selection of Bucs merchandise on the internet? Check out BucGear.com.