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Bucs offense still a work in progress

As a result, starting quarterback Shaun King is likely to get extra snaps Friday against the Chiefs.

By ROGER MILLS

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 22, 2000


TAMPA -- Typically, in the fourth game of the preseason, NFL teams play their starters a few drives in the first half and then sit them out.

A few last-minute touches, no injuries.

But for Bucs starting quarterback Shaun King, Friday's game against Kansas City won't be a quickie.

Coach Tony Dungy said King still needs work.

"He might play a little more than the starting quarterback normally would in Week 4," Dungy said Monday. "We're going to look at that and see. He still hasn't played a lot of football.

"The first two weeks, he was sharp. This week was tough on him because there were a lot of different looks and some things we don't normally see. He had some misreads and threw the ball to the wrong place a few times in this game, where he hadn't really done that before. But, he'll learn from it and I'm sure he'll be a lot sharper when next we play those guys."

The Bucs see the Patriots again in the regular-season opener Sept. 3 in Foxboro, Mass.

Quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said King has had a good preseason but added that entering the fourth game, the second-year player needs more repetitions.

Ideally, starting quarterbacks play about two drives in the final preseason game. Sometimes, Christensen said, if they are sharp on the first drive, they sit out the rest of the game. King is likely to play at least two, if not more.

"I think what he really needs is quantity of reps," Christensen said. "To come back after Sunday's game and get single-digit reps would probably not be productive. I think Shaun's ahead of where we expected but he still has a ways to go."

In Sunday's 31-21 road win against the Patriots, King was 9-of-23 for 191 yards. He played the entire first half and the first possession of the third quarter. But 113 of those yards came on two plays in which the ball was tipped and snared by Jacquez Green, one turning into a 55-yard touchdown.

"We got two freak plays that way that really helped us and field position-wise we had a couple of things that didn't go our way," Dungy said. "Those tend to even out. I think when you're hustling you have a tendency to get those breaks. You don't like to live off of them. You're not going to live off of them."

After three games in a new offense, under a new offensive coordinator (Les Steckel), King hasn't been bad. He is 28-for-47 for 378 yards with one interception and has a 83.5 rating. The passing offense, which settled at the bottom of the league last year, is 17th in the NFL and tied for 13th in the NFC.

"I think he's been throwing the ball pretty well," Christensen said. "But he has to work on his reads and his checks a bit and that will come with more reps."

What bothered coaches Sunday was the first-team offense got inside the 20-yard line only twice -- excluding Green's touchdown catch -- and didn't get into the end zone. In fact, the first-team offense has two touchdowns in the preseason, one on a pass from King. "I think we're getting close," King said after Sunday's game. "I've said all along we're going to be playing a lot better at the middle of the season than we are right now. We did some good things. We moved the ball against them. I thought we did pretty decent on third down. ... I still think we can do better as we get more acclimated with the offense." The slow development, Dungy said, was anticipated.

"It's right about where I expected it to be," Dungy said. "I think we'll continue to get better throughout this season and I knew there would be some bumps in the road; any time you do anything new and start from scratch you have to expect those growing pains."

- Staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.

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