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Bucs training camp is here! Rookies and quarterbacks have already reported to the Advent Health Training Center, with the rest of the roster arriving on Saturday. The first practice of Bucs 2021 training camp kicks off on Sunday. So far, we’ve featured a new position group every day leading up to the start of camp:

Wide Receivers
Running Backs
Offensive Linemen
Interior Defensive Line  
Outside Linebackers

Off-ball Linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties

As a bonus in the training camp battles series, we’ll briefly cover some of the smaller competitions at quarterback, tight end and returner.

At quarterback, the spots seem rather secure. Tom Brady’s return, the re-signing of Blaine Gabbert and the drafting of Kyle Trask have the Bucs room fairly set. Ryan Griffin is also back on a one-year deal, and will challenge Gabbert for the third and final spot.

As with the quarterback position, all the tight ends from last year’s team are back. Rob Gronkowski re-upped on a one-year deal and O.J. Howard looks to work his way back from injury. Cam Brate adds a nice insurance policy as he returns on a reduced salary.

The returner position will be one of the most intriguing battles of camp. Rookie Jaelon Darden looks to challenge Jaydon Mickens for the job, while also vying for a role in the receiver room. A storyline to watch is if Mickens can force the Bucs to keep a seventh receiver on the roster.

Quarterback

Not much to say here. Drafting Kyle Trask in the second round was a surprise to many, but it shows the Bucs are committed to the future as much as they are the present. It’s always good to invest in the quarterback room. In a year with very few holes, it made sense for the team to address the position this year. Trask will be afforded every opportunity in camp to earn extra looks, while learning from one of the best to ever do it and a phenomenal coaching staff.  Trask, because of his draft status, is firmly cemented on the roster for the 2021 season.

The battle between Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin, if you can call it that, is the only thing to monitor in camp. Playing the entire second half against the Lions, Gabbert put up solid numbers with 143 yards and 2 touchdowns. In that outing he showed that the team should be in capable hands if a minor injury to Brady were to occur. Griffin enters his seventh season with the Bucs and will face an uphill battle to make the roster.

Tight End

The Bucs have a lot of money invested into this group. Gronkowski is back for another year after elevating his play as the season wore on. A “blocking tight end”, Gronk tallied 45 receptions for 623 yards and seven touchdown in the regular season. His postseason play was exceptional, culminating in a two-touchdown, six-catch, 67-yard performance in the Super Bowl.

Brate was sharp for the Bucs when Howard went down with an injury. The biggest question mark in this group is O.J. Howard and his health. Set to make over $6 million this year, Howard has yet to put together a full 16-game season. He has shown flashes of the ability that made him a first round selection, but health has been a major concern. If Howard can stay on the field, it will add another dimension to an already potent offensive attack.

Tanner Hudson has been on-and-off the roster the past few years, but provides valuable insurance as a pass-catching tight end. The Bucs brought in some outside competition to the group in former Giants and Texans tight end Jerell Adams. Adams, who signed on after a rookie mini-camp tryout, has over 30 games of experience in the league, but hasn’t caught a pass since 2019. Codey McElroy enters his third season with the Bucs. The former basketball player has shown some promise as an athletic pass-catcher, recording a 30-yard reception in his lone game in 2019.

Kick Returner

With the drafting of rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden, the job appears to be his to lose. Mainly a punt returner in college, Darden averaged 8.9 yards per return over the course of his career. As he ascended into a prominent receiver position, Darden stepped away from those duties in 2020. His best season came in 2017 when he returned 10 punts for an 11.9 average and a touchdown, while adding 16 kick returns for an 18.4 average. Darden will get extensive work in training camp as he tries to beat out incumbent returner Jaydon Mickens.

Mickens who manned the spot last season, turned in an impressive 25 yards per return on 14 kicks in 10 games in the regular season. In the playoffs he turned it up a notch with a 43-yard return in the NFC Championship Game on his way to a 22.2 average. Mickens wasn’t nearly as productive as a punt returner however, managing just 6.19 yards on 16 returns. Facing gun charges stemming from a March arrest, Mickens will need to overcome off-field transgressions as well as impress on the field.

As the fourth running back on the depth chart, Ke’Shawn Vaughn will need to find some way to contribute on special teams to be active on Sundays. One way for him to do so is by entering the competition at kick returner. While not something he has done often in his career, Arians mentioned prior to the start of the 2020 season Vaughn could see snaps at the position. Another option is running back Giovani Bernard. Bernard returned two kicks in 2020 for a 19-yard average with the Bengals. With only seven career returns, he’s more of a “break glass in case of emergency” option.

With a newly-opened roster spot, the Bucs could also re-visit signing running back Kenjon Barner. Barner stepped up in place of Mickens when he missed games, averaging 23 yards per kick return and five yards per punt return.

Verdict

It will be worth monitoring if Trask can beat Gabbert out for the number two spot, but it is unlikely. With the practice squad rules remaining the same as last season, Griffin is a likely candidate to stick around there. In doing so it will make him the longest-tenured QB in Bucs history. Not bad for a guy who has completed two career passes.

It remains to be seen if the Bucs plan to keep four tight ends on the active roster. If they do, it’s probably Hudson’s job to lose. As Adams and McElroy try to take that spot away from him, they’ll have to turn in a very impressive camp. If they plan on only keeping three tight ends, look for them to try to sneak Hudson back on the practice squad if he clears waivers. McElroy has a good chance of staying with the team there too.

Rounding out the roster will be challenging for the Bucs this year with so many talented players. It will be interesting to see how much they value position versatility when constructing the final team. In that sense, I see an extremely uphill battle for Mickens to remain on the active roster. Not offering as much as a wide receiver will be his Achilles heel in the battle with Darden. Darden’s explosive run-after-the-catch ability will help him secure the job as the team’s top return man in 2021. Still, Mickens may stick around on the practice squad as an insurance policy if Darden struggles.

On Saturday, I’ll have out a final recap of all the battles and my 53-man roster prediction for the 2021 Bucs.

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About the Author: J.C. Allen

J.C. Allen is one of PewterReport.com’s newest beat writers. As a New England transplant, he has closely followed Tom Brady’s entire career and first fell in love with the game during the Patriots 1996 Super Bowl run. J.C. is in his second year covering the team after spending a year with Bucs Report as a writer, producer and show host. Some of his other interests include barbecuing, being outdoors, and spending time with family and friends. His favorite Buccaneer of all time is Simeon Rice and believes he deserves a spot in Canton. Follow J.C. Allen on Twitter @JCAllenNFL.
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drdneast
1 month ago

I hope this is the last Kyle Trask story I have to read.

Naplesfan
Reply to  drdneast
1 month ago

No – your head is likely to explode many times reading Kyle Trask stories. We’ll be laughing.

drdneast
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

That’s just cruel. LOL.

Naplesfan
1 month ago

Gabbert gets all manner of attaboys from the coaching and front office staff, but he’s also not getting any offers to start anywhere else, and the league-wide view of him, right or wrong, is that he’s just not very good … capable of an occasion productive game, but you wouldn’t want to have to rely upon him to take your team to and through the playoffs. Ditto with Griffin, but even less so given his non-existent resume of NFL snaps in games that matter. Trask is a big unknown, as far as his ability to eventually play in the NFL.… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Now, just how do you know Gabbert hasn’t received any offers?

Captain Sly
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

I can answer this one! Blaine Gabbert sat out for months hoping for a starter position and watched Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Bridgewater, Winston, some guy named Heinike on and on get signed around him. Then at the last minute decided to except the minimum $ the Bucs were offering him. That’s at least one way I know..The other thing I know is that the Jason Licht doesn’t view Blaine Gabbert as a starter. Why? Because if he did there wouldn’t have been a reason to draft “Kyle Trask” as others have said. No matter how you slice it Blaine Gabbert is… Read more »

Dman
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 month ago

And there you go – simple – he’s not a starter, just a reliable back-up. Nothing wrong with that either. And Griff is the odd man out. Not a Gator fan, but my take was Trask was the difference from them being competitive to giving Bama their toughest test last season. Will be interested in how he plays in August.

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Well, either Gabbert never received any offers to start for another NFL team, or he is the dumbest box of rocks ever to quarterback any team. No quarterback is going to turn down an offer to start for an NFL team, unless he receives multiple offers to start. No player wants to spend their career on the bench or holding the pad computer for the starter.

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
bucballer
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Not completely true. Ex Buc QB Mike Glennon has made millions doing just that.

Naplesfan
Reply to  bucballer
1 month ago

Mike Glennon always preferred to be a starter, like every other quarterback who ever played the game, and to anybody’s knowledge he never turned down a starters job to stay a backup somewhere else.
If he settled for a backup job, that was because that was all he could get. Just like Gabbert.

scubog
Reply to  Naplesfan
1 month ago

Naples: It’s still your own speculation and may well be accurate. Just refrain from spewing it as a fact. It’s simply “your truth”. Many folks in the “real world” receive job offers, but choose to remain in their current employment. Here, you make the assumption that Gabbert is so bad he wouldn’t be in the league without Arians’ loyalty.

Naplesfan
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Like I said either he never received an offer to start or he is the dumbest box of rocks ever to play NFL quarterback. Professional sports is nothing like regular employment. They are all independent contractors, not employees. They can live anywhere in the world they want, and many, if not most, live somewhere other than in the city where they play. They make enough money that none of them are starving. But the money difference between a starter and a career back up is humongous – Brady is knocking down something like $30M a year with incentives, and he… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
fredster
1 month ago

I said already but I’ll say again, if Trask can’t beat out Gabbert then he was a wasted pick. I would bet good money he doesn’t pan out. To me Dumb pick when Brady is playing so well still. Should have addressed QB later. Window is short for another Super Bowl! Duh.

Captain Sly
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

A “Dumb Pick” was drafting a diminutive CB #1 out of UF and a overhyped Kicker in 2nd rd out of FSU based on need, That’s what you call a dumb…When Dak Prescott was drafted fans uttered your exact same words. “Why did we waste a 4th rd pick on a project QB when Tony Romo is playing so well”? Yeah what a dumb pick that Dak was.

gcolerick
Reply to  Captain Sly
1 month ago

Very Sly comment and I like it.

plopes808
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

Not dumb at all actually. There was no hole to fill on the roster so we took a luxury pick. I feel a lot more comfortable with a young QB having 2-3 years to learn and develop behind the GOAT rather than drafting a high pick later who gets thrown into the fire and flames out.

Naplesfan
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

You’ve said it many times and it remains just as football-dumb a statement now as it has been since the draft. The Bucs drafted Trask because they saw him as a reasonable option to replace Tom Brady when he inevitably retires. Being a second rounder, his salary cap cost is negligible, unlike a top ten draft pick. He has many of the traits they want in a quarterback. And among those traits is that he is a sponge for football intelligence, precisely that which makes TB-12 the GOAT. An ego driven top ten quarterback pick is much less likely to… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Naplesfan
scubog
1 month ago

Forty Niners moved up to draft a QB when they just paid megabucks for Garoppolo. Patriots drafted a QB in the 1st round when they have the former overall # 1 and MVP in Newton. Bears selected a QB when they have Dalton and Foles and released their former first rounder. Cardinals drafted Murray when they had just selected Rosen in the top 10. And of course the Packers drafted a QB when they had Rodgers and for that matter, drafted Rodgers when they had Favre. Then there was the team formally known as the Redskins who drafted RG3 and… Read more »

surferdudes
Reply to  scubog
1 month ago

Like trying to get the 40 percent vaccinated who will never get the shot, you’re wasting your time trying to convince anti Traskers. Forget the fact Tom is 44, forget the fact Griffin is Griffin. Don’t dwell on the fact Gabbert has never been a good QB, don’t think about that him, and Griffin are only signed through this year. Don’t use logic. Vaccinations, are bad, and so was picking Trask.

Dman
Reply to  surferdudes
1 month ago

LOL

scubog
Reply to  surferdudes
1 month ago

You’re right about that Surfer. Logic and thinking for oneself is becoming a lost exercise.

Dman
1 month ago

I really don’t get the Trask bashing. We drafted developmental players across the board this year. First rounder Tryon is the same to me – remember he sat out last season and will be a back-up. Other than TB our QB room is filled with career back-ups at best. And no matter how you get them, starting capable QB’s are expensive. It makes sense to risk developing a guy with talent and smarts when you’re not backed into a corner. It’s obvious we did that with our 1st and 2nd round picks this year. How about we just chill with… Read more »

Captain Sly
Reply to  Dman
1 month ago

100% Agreed! However a remnant will always remain no matter who happens to be our pick of Jason Licht detractors, Closest GM’s who seem to know more than the guy who has put together the Best Bucs roster in team history. Same crowd who ripped the GM for trading away a 4th to get Wirfs & another for Gronk. No satisfying Everyone. I Guess!

bucballer
Reply to  Dman
1 month ago

Agree Dman! Nothing wrong with the Trask pick when u r trying to add some youth to ur QB room. Give Trask a break before calling for his head. Let’s see play a little in preseason first. I think he’ll be alright. R there any guarantees in the draft anyway? It’s all a crapshoot.

Naplesfan
Reply to  Dman
1 month ago

Ignore them, it is just two idiots who post about a thousand comments a month each here at PR who keep making the same stupid comments over and over again.

Most Bucs fans are extremely happy with the Bucs as they are, including the draft picks.

There’s always a couple of jerks in any bunch of fans who claim they’re smarter than the rest of the universe and can predict with 100% accuracy what each and every draft pick will do. Only idiots think or talk that way.

Horse
1 month ago

There is no battle here. Trask has a chance to learn the game with the GOAT and Gabbert; maybe he’ll get some actual game time later in the season. If he shows early he is better than Gabbert; then by all means play him earlier in games if needed.

seat26
1 month ago

If Brady gets suspended for lying about his injury, My money is on Trask. I can’t wait for him to blow it up in Pre-Season. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised.

bucballer
Reply to  seat26
1 month ago

I’m with u seat. Kid threw for a ton of yards last year in a major college division. He can sling the ball a bit.

Naplesfan
Reply to  seat26
1 month ago

There are and will be no suspensions for lying. He didn’t lie.

rocky
1 month ago

Trask can learn from Brady but it’s important to learn from gabbert as well. The no. 11 pick down the road in Jacksonville he can teach him what not to do and how to avoid becoming a wasted pick

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