The Buccaneers quarterback competition remains ongoing — even if one of the participants had Saturday night off against the Jets.
Kyle Trask received the start in Tampa Bay’s 13-6 win and put together a solid outing that flashed in spurts, going 20 of 28 for 218 yards and a touchdown in his pursuit of the QB1 job over Baker Mayfield.
However, the biggest wrinkle of the night came after Trask’s was meant to be done. John Wolford relieved him following a half of football, but after the third-stringer suffered a neck injury that required being stretchered off the field, Trask re-entered the ball game for a double dip.
Head coach Todd Bowles, who told reporters in the postgame that resting Mayfield doesn’t necessarily mean the older veteran will be the Week 1 starter, provided an explanation for turning again to Trask.
“Trask was warmer at the time, and we took out the line and he was ready to go,” Bowles said, per team transcripts. “We were going to play Baker at the end of the half, but we wanted to see Kyle in the two-minute period, so kind of left him in and then the time kind of went down. We wanted to play John in the second half, it wasn’t fair to put Baker in there without the line he had, and Trask was already warmed up so when John got hurt, we just put him back in to finish.”
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Trask missed a drive and a half in all, returning to the game with 1:03 left in the third and playing a similar game to his first stint in the lineup.
He made a handful of errant throws, but he looked comfortable stepping up in the pocket most of the night, displayed some surprising niftiness and was often content to take what was available short.
He became more emboldened in crunch time, though, spreading his only three pass attempts of 20-plus yards across the last five minutes of either half. Trask capped off a 79-yard drive near the close of the second-quarter with a 33-yard strike that impressive rookie wide receiver Trey Palmer tipped to himself just over the reach of Jets cornerback Derrick Langford.
Trask repeated a 79-yard possession several drives into his return to the field, milking away the clock with a seven-point lead over New York and ripping passes of 36 and 26 yards to Rakim Jarrett and Taye Barber, respectively.
The effort ended in a missed 32-yard kick by Rodrigo Blankenship, another player in a position battle, but those sparks still caught Bowles’ attention.
“Poise,” the coach said Sunday regarding what he’d seen from Trask the night before. “Poise in the pocket. A lot more athleticism — he used his legs when he had to and he was very successful at that. He threw the ball where he was supposed to throw it — he threw some pinpoint passes. He’d like to have a few plays back but overall, I saw a lot of poise and a lot of growth. I thought he did well.”
Even so, it’s somewhat telling that Bowles felt it more prudent to place Trask in the firing line behind a backup offensive line rather than thrust Mayfield into that situation during a meaningless game.
The two played behind the same line composition in preseason game No. 1, with Mayfield getting the start. Instead of flip flopping as initially planned, Trask started Saturday, and then played a little extra.
While reading between the lines might suggest Bowles wanted to keep Mayfield safe for the season opener, the coach remains firm that a competition remains.
Bowles said in his Sunday news conference that his staff still has to meet to determine QB snap counts in the final tune-up for the season. That remains under wraps for now, and so, too, does the Bucs’ starter under center.
“We don’t have a timetable on it,” Bowles said about publicly announcing a decision. “We’ll name it when we name it. We feel comfortable with where we’re at, so we’ll go from there.”
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