Starter is starting to impress his coach
Brad Johnson's efforts at QB against Jacksonville elicit glowing praise from the Bucs' Jon Gruden.
By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002
LAKE BUENA VISTA -- Brad Johnson gets knocked for being nearsighted when eyeballing receivers downfield.
But even blinded by a severe pass rush, he completed several intermediate and deep passes in Friday's 20-0 win against Jacksonville.
Good thing. With the Bucs rushing attack averaging 1.7 yards, Johnson had to look long all night for the first-down marker.
"I thought Brad played an outstanding game last night, I really did," coach Jon Gruden said. "He made some unbelievable throws with people in his face, down the field. He avoided the sack, he kept our team on the move."
Johnson finished 6-for-12 for 97 yards, including three completions of more than 20 yards, further securing his grip on the starting quarterback job.
Johnson dug the Bucs out of a deep hole to start the game. Tampa Bay's offense began, after an illegal motion penalty on fullback Mike Alstott, on its 3-yard line.
Four completions later, the Bucs moved to the Jacksonville 25. But a 12-yard strike to Keyshawn Johnson for a first down was erased when tackle Roman Oben took his stance behind the line of scrimmage.
"When you're backed up on your own 5-yard line on the road it's a tough situation," Gruden said. "Your first goal is to make a first down. Unfortunately, we had a big completion to Keyshawn called back on that initial drive. Another great throw for a big first down on their 25.
"The next series, we moved the ball quickly down to the red zone and I think after a second-down run that netted a yard on third and 5, we just came up short. But I thought (Brad Johnson) played extremely well last night and showed what he's capable of doing in this system. I was very pleased, I have been since we've been working together."
Even so, Gruden said the Bucs will continue to provide significant playing time in the final two preseason games for Rob Johnson and Shaun King, who each had touchdown passes against the Jaguars.
"I've never worked a preseason with maybe the same formula that some guys do. I think the preseason is a great opportunity to get turns and get some reps for your other quarterbacks as well. During the regular season, I've been on teams here the last four or five years where one guy takes every snap for 16 or 17 games. We need to give some playing time to all our quarterbacks and we're going to do that in every one of these preseason games.
"The way we practice, the amount of snaps we have in a particular two-a-day session is dramatic and I think the way that we're rotating quarterbacks, giving the bulk of the work to Brad Johnson, I think the game situations make it very important to us to give Shaun and Rob their opportunities to showcase what they can do and get acclimated to this system and we're not going to change dramatically here against Washington or Houston."
Rob Johnson was effective, going 8-for-11 for 74 yards, including a 3-yard touchdown to Frank Murphy. King struggled early, throwing an interception and losing a fumble. But he rebounded with a 31-yard TD to Michigan rookie Marquise Walker.
All told, the Bucs had five completions of more than 20 yards.
"Just about every one of our passes has a deep element to it," Gruden said. "Based on the coverage that you see, based on the type of protection you're getting, it kind of depends on where we go with it. But we did try to push it a little bit last night. We connected on some intermediate throws and some that I guess you could call vertical throws.
"That's good for Tampa Bay offensive fans, I guess. We want to try and get six or seven explosive offensive plays per game, those are 20 yards or more, and we were able to get a couple of those last night."
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