TAMPA — The Bucs defense continues to outplay the offense.
The gap might be narrowing, and in this game, the hitters are always ahead of the pitchers and catchers this time of year.
But the execution on offense still is not where coach Dirk Koetter wants it to be. In fact, he says it's one area where the team is behind after six training camp practices.
"It's a process. You're always going to be ahead in some areas and behind in others," Koetter said. "That's where we are. We need to execute better on offense than we have been.
"Part of that is we're playing good defense. So, you know, give and take. (Defensive coordinator Mike Smith) and the defensive staff, they've got to some good stuff in there, and they're giving us fits right now. Not only is it a good scheme, they've got players who can play in that scheme. That's even better."
Koetter says one player who has been a disruptive force that doesn't get much attention for his performance in practice is DT Gerald McCoy.
"We can't block that guy," Koetter said. "You think he's offside. I'm sitting here running the tape back 20 times. The guy has got the best get-off.
"He's hard to stop. He wrecks half of practice, and (DE) Robert Ayers is right there with him."
Howard stands out
O.J. Howard, the team's first-round draft pick from Alabama, looked the part from the first day of training camp.
But the wet weather didn't help anyone catch the football, and the tight end had his shares of drops. He got free for a deep ball Thursday and made several other nice grabs, especially in seven-on-seven work.
"Outstanding" Koetter said of the rookie. "He looks like a first-round pick."
Griffin shows progress
The team's backup quarterback will be named Ryan. Beyond that, we don't know if it will be Fitzpatrick or Griffin.
Certainly, Fitzpatrick has a big edge in terms of experience entering his 12th year, and Griffin has never thrown a pass in the regular season. But Griffin is steadily improving with each practice and had one of his better days throwing the ball Thursday.
This competition will be settled in the preseason, and there's always a chance the team keeps three quarterbacks.
The words of 'Chucky'
Jon Gruden spent about 90 minutes with Koetter in the head coach's office Wednesday talking football and looking through his old playbook.
"That was fun for me," Koetter said. "We've got one of his old playbooks up in my office. We pulled that out and had a laugh on that.
"Jon's a film junkie, still. He's making me say stuff that I wouldn't say to too many people. Then at 3:30, Jon talked to the team and he talked like he was the coach of the Bucs. It was great. It was a great message."
It's hard to know exactly what message Gruden had for the current Tampa Bay team, but the coach who led the Bucs to the Super Bowl XXXVII title might have previewed it a bit during his Ring of Honor news conference a few hours earlier.
"Well, I would tell him (and) I would tell the players the same thing I tried to tell you guys (his former players) every year: There's a rock out there in the lobby, you've just got to pound it," Gruden said. "The rock is the opponent. If I try to slam that rock and break that rock by myself, it's probably not going to happen.
"I need McCoy, I need the linebackers, I need the kicker, I need everybody to pound that rock, so we can smash it into smithereens. That's how you win and dominate in this league. It's about every guy in the building. Once you cut this thing down to 53 (players on the roster), everybody's got to become a grinder. One thought, one mind, one message every day. It's about the team, it's about the rock, it's about finishing and competing because they've got enough talent to do it. If they can stay injury free, have a little luck along the way and pound the rock, the Bucs are back. You watch and see."