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The Headline From Camp Today: Bucs’ Backups Shine

The Bucs held their third practice of the 2021 season at the AdventHealth Training Center on Wednesday, July 28. With quarterback Tom Brady, center Ryan Jensen, tight end Rob Gronkowski and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul having scheduled veteran days off to rest, several Bucs backups got their chance to shine on Wednesday.

Blaine Gabbert got the start at quarterback with backups Ryan Griffin and rookie Kyle Trask getting increased reps with Brady’s bystander status. Rookie Robert Hainsey, Tampa Bay’s third-round pick, was inserted as the starting center with Jensen out. Donall Stanley was the backup center.

With Gronkowski out along with O.J. Howard (Achilles recovery) and Cameron Brate (PUP), the Bucs’ backup tight ends got plenty of work and their chance to star. Codey McElroy, a big, 6-foot-6, 258-pound tight end, was the big winner on Wednesday, making a couple of big receptions across the middle, while Jerell Adams and Tanner Hudson also made some nice catches. The depth in the Bucs’ tight end room extends beyond the top three players, and Gronkowski made that clear after Wednesday’s practice.

Bucs TE Codey McElroy

Bucs TE Codey McElroy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“We can all play – all those guys can play,” Gronkowski said. “Codey, you saw him out there today. He had some very nice catches over the middle on some crossing routes. Jerell on that stick-and-up, that out-and-up. That was a very beautiful play. And Tanner was out there making some very nice plays on some option routes, and scoring a nice touchdown. It just shows that we’re deep. It’s good to be deep. It’s good to have a lot of talent there. We all work off each other and push each other. We can all play ball. It’s a special group for sure.”

On defense, Joe Tryon, the Bucs’ first-round, got the start at right outside linebacker on Wednesday filling in for Pierre-Paul. The added reps helped his development for sure, and he showed off the skill set that made him a top pick. Tryon’s speed off the corner has been evident in camp.

Even though Gronkowski didn’t face Tryon on Wednesday, he’s already seen enough of the rookie pass rusher to where he’s intrigued.

“He looks like he can play,” Gronkowski said. “He’s got the ideal, typical body type for a defensive end. He’s got explosion coming off the line. No doubt about that. He’s big and he’s lengthy, which is what you want. He’s strong, too. But we’ll really see what he has when we put the pads on.”

Bucs Players Out Of Practice

Wide receiver Chris Godwin was out of practice for a second day. Godwin has spent the last two days working with a trainer on the practice field. Outside linebacker Cam Gill was also watching practice and not participating on Wednesday. Brady, Jensen, Gronkowski and Pierre-Paul had scheduled veteran days off to rest on Wednesday. Reserve safety Raven Greene was still absent from camp for personal reasons. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh returned to practice after resting on Tuesday.

Bucs Practice Notes

The Bucs had to move on the fly during practice, as rain and lightning forced the team to move to the indoor facility at the Advent Health Training Center about halfway through the morning. They practiced in the rain for as long as they could until lightning struck.

Gabbert’s role as the second-string quarterback is safe, though it was nice to see him get a crack as the number one for a day. It was also the debut of Antonio Brown in team drills after just working on individual drills the day before. Those two connected on the first pass of the day, a 15-yard completion over the middle. This also led to a great battle with safety Antoine Winfield, Jr. on a route to the corner of the end zone. The ball was overthrown, but both players were next to each other and ready to make a play on the ball.

Gabbert found great chemistry with the star of the day – McElroy, as they were responsible for some of the biggest plays of the day. It didn’t matter if they were indoors or outdoors, McElroy was making several catches, even difficult ones with defenders draped all over him. 

The real QB competition was between Griffin and Trask, as things kicked up a notch with more reps at their disposal. 

Griffin got more of the snaps over Trask while the Bucs were still outside in the rain and made the most of his time. He fired a great ball 20 yards down the field on a post route to Josh Pearson for one of the biggest gains of the day. Fighting through the rain, Griffin was spreading the ball around to various receivers, looking quite comfortable in the pocket. After weather issues caused the Bucs to move inside, Griffin finished practice on fire.

In a sequence of passes during the same drive, the veteran QB found Jaelon Darden over the middle for a 15-yard reception and then fired a perfectly placed ball to Scotty Miller near the sideline and just one-yard away from the goal line. Two plays later, he hit Mike Evans over the middle of the field for another big play and a touchdown on the play. It was a great way to finish up his practice.

While Griffin was steady throughout the morning, second-round pick Kyle Trask showed flashes of good throws mixed with typical rookie mistakes. His most active part of practice was after the Bucs moved inside to the AdventHealth Training Center’s indoor facility. Starting off in red zone drills, Trask had a nice completion to new tight end De’Quan Hamilton on a route to the corner. Trask followed that up with a terrific pass to the right corner of the end zone where it was hauled in by Pearson, who had a cornerback right on top of him. He couldn’t have thrown it any better.

For all the fun that play was, reality set back in for Trask on the next play as he technically was sacked on the play by Khalil Davis (with some help from a good rush by Tryon), but even worse was that his pass to the end zone was intercepted by Ross Cockrell, who was playing safety with the second group. There was no need to make the pass as there were numerous defenders around the ball.

This spiraled into two more incomplete passes, including a roll out to his right where he could have found Troymaine Pope in the end zone. Trask did rebound later on as he connected on a touchdown pass to Adams. To Trask’s credit, he was getting various different looks from the Bucs’ starting defense, including one situation where Lavonte David was lined up outside and another where Tryon and Barrett were rushing from the same side.

It was a big day for a lot of the rookies getting playing time on Wednesday. Hainsey held his own at center with the exception of the first snap of the day, but he had some great reps pass blocking, particularly during one play against veteran defensive lineman Will Gholston. Fifth-round pick K.J. Britt came up big during one drill where he broke up a Gabbert pass, leading to the ball landing in the hands of cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting for an interception. This was a signature play so far for Britt in this camp.

One player that didn’t’ have the best day was wide receiver Jaydon Mickens, who missed a couple of passes that went his way. To make matters worse, one reception he did make turned into a fumble after cornerback Antonio Hamilton knocked it out of his hands. The ball did go out of bounds, so it wasn’t a turnover.

There was also a productive outing for Giovani Bernard, as the newest running back in the Bucs’ room broke off a 20-yard run early on in the day. He caught some passes as well from Gabbert in different drills, putting on one of his better performances since joining the team.

With a day off coming on Thursday, the Bucs still put in great effort knowing what’s ahead. Rookies and young players were elevated into upgraded positions on the depth chart and performed at a high level.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
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1 month ago

I like the way they’re giving vets rest, while also letting the young guys get some work with the starters. Sounds like a productive practice all in all. Can’t wait to see this rookie class in the preseason!

1 month ago

Thanks got; a lot of good information. Trask is about what I expected as we knew he would need this year to get polished for 2922.

1 month ago

This was the beauty of having the luxury to pick up a QB that didn’t have to start right away. I watched Trask walk out off the bench and get the job done impressively. He has what it takes, he just needs time to grow and learn. This Defense of Bowles is tough to get used to in the beginning, but it will make him better. For the record, I hope Brady plays like Brady for another 3 years at least and we don’t even have to ask the Trask question until then and meanwhile he can learn from the… Read more »

1 month ago

Brady was 4th on the depth chart his rookie year. Give Trask time to develop.

Reply to  Buc76
1 month ago

I agree lets lay off Trask. We all know how some feel it was a wasted pick, thankfully we could afford to waste one. In 2-3 yrs it might not have been a waste. Lets wait and see.
Go Bucs!!!

1 month ago

They’re all Bucs until they’re not. Since when do we cast judgement on a draft pick before even seeing him play? Give these young Bucs a chance. We r looking for depth. Quality depth. Sometimes it takes a season or two before we really know what we got. Give Trask a break. I takes awhile for a young player to make that adjustment to the pros.

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