The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs. This week’s topic: Which Bucs Player Has The Most To Prove At Mini-Camp?
Scott Reynolds: Gabbert Needs To Live Up To The Hype
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I wouldn’t be surprised if Bucs head coach Bruce Arians holds Tom Brady out of the mini-camp or greatly reduces the amount of reps he’ll take this week. Brady held his own workouts with the Bucs veterans without the coaching staff and slinging the ball around just fine while coming off knee surgery. Yet I suspect backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert will get most of the starter reps in mini-camp. And the pressure is on Gabbert, especially after the Bucs drafted Kyle Trask in the second round.
Bucs GM Jason Licht and QB Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs general manager Jason Licht raved about Gabbert on an episode of the Pewter Report Podcast. He also mentioned him as a possible successor to Brady in a few years. Arians called Gabbert “the most underrated player in the NFL.” Yet Trask’s second-round draft status puts some pressure on Gabbert, who served as Brady’s backup last year and saw action in games against Green Bay and Detroit. The Bucs like Gabbert, but have only signed to him a series of one-year deals over the last three seasons. He’ll need to show up and show out in mini-camp to keep his elevated profile around One Buc Place heading into training camp.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Arians throws Trask in with the starters for a few reps during the mini-camp. That way he’ll start to build a rapport with some of the starting-caliber receivers like Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown and Scotty Miller. Not to mention tight ends Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate and O.J. Howard. It’s doubtful that Trask could unseat Gabbert as the No. 2 quarterback this year given Gabbert’s experience in the offense. But he can start to chip away at Gabbert’s lead starting this week. It’s up to Gabbert to stay out in front and keep the rookie QB at bay.
Mark Cook: Trask Is The Future, Now Prove It Starting This Week
In a perfect world, the ageless Tom Brady plays until he’s 50 years old, wins a handful more Super Bowls, and NFL fans end up hating the Bucs like most of the league hated the Patriots during their 20-year dynasty run with Brady under center. Unfortunately even the one NFL player who seems to have making a deal with Father Time, will slow down or just decide he’s had enough and walk off into a Tampa Bay Area sunset just waiting until the five years are up and he hears his name as a first ballot Hall of Famer. How long before that happens is anyones guess, but if it’s in the next couple years, Kyle Trask will be waiting patiently on the sideline for the day his number is called.
Bruce Arians and QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Everyone expects Blaine Gabbert to be this year’s No. 2 quarterback behind Brady and for good reason. Gabbert is an experienced backup and starter, and there isn’t much opposing defenses can throw at him that he hasn’t seen plenty of times before. Trask is the exact opposite and teams would love nothing more than to see the former Florida Gator under center at some point this season. While it hopefully doesn’t happen, what if Gabbert pops another shoulder socket out like he did in 2019 and misses the season? At that point you’re faced with Ryan Griffin or Trask as your options. If that’s the case, run the rookie out on the field. While in a perfect world he absorbs Brady’s greatness through osmosis just breathing in the same air as the GOAT, facts are he needs to be on the field. And if Brady isn’t the guy, and Gabbert can’t go, give me Trask over Griffin and I’ll take my lumps.
However Trask still has much to learn and starting with this mini-camp, he needs to earn the trust of his coaches. But more importantly he needs to earn the trust of his teammates. Trask needs to show the players his arm is plenty adequate to get the job done if called on. He needs to prove to his teammates he isn’t easily rattled. Trask needs to be able to make the proper line calls, process what the defense is doing and have the playbook down just in case. Thats a tall task to ask from a rookie, but as he learned at Florida, he could be just a play away from being called on. Get ready young man. Your time will come, Hopefully not this season, but it all starts on Tuesday in the team’s mandatory mini-camp.
Jon Ledyard: Johnson Must Stand Out In Crowded WR Room
There are several great choices for this topic, but I’ll continue to highlight how big this offseason is for Tyler Johnson. Obviously players that are more on the roster bubble than Johnson will be in for several weeks of pressure this offseason, but of those with a real shot at playing time, the Bucs second-year receiver must outplay a glut of talented competition in mini-camp.
Johnson had a solid rookie campaign for the Bucs, catching 12 passes and two touchdowns. But he was still the team’s fourth receiver at best, splitting playing time with Scotty Miller over the latter stages of the season. Given how impactful he was on a per-snap basis, Miller expects to see an increase in playing time this season. The addition of Jaelon Darden as the team’s top returner should give him a hat on game days, putting pressure on Johnson to stand out on offense and special teams.
Whether fans like it or not, the sixth wide receiver is active on game days for his special teams impact, not his receiving ability. Long-term, there is still a very clear path for Johnson to make an impact in Tampa Bay. He’s talented, smart and flashed too much playmaking as a rookie to give up on that. But for the 2021 season, he’s competing with Miller and Darden for offensive playing time and with Justin Watson and Jaydon Mickens just to get a hat on game days. Those two have more experience on teams and kick coverage than Johnson, making every session of camp crucial for the Minnesota product.
Matt Matera: Vaughn Fighting For Any Amount Of Playing Time
Already the fourth running back on the depth chart, Ke’Shawn Vaughn has to fight for an opportunity just to get some time on the field. It could be through special teams or getting a rep or two at running back to give the rest of the group a breather, but it’s an uphill battle for Vaughn to even get consideration with the talent in front of him. Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard are all established players who will get plenty of snaps on offense. They won’t be taken off the field for anything.
I truly think that Vaughn is one of the players that could have really helped from a preseason last year. His performance in the regular season were pedestrian, albeit with a limited amount of opportunities. He rushed for 109 yards on 26 carries (4.2 avg.) and caught five passes for 34 yards and a touchdown, but two turnovers did him in, and the only time he was looked at again was in blowout win over Detroit. Vaughn only dressed for the Super Wildcard round, where he lost a fumble as well.
Getting more chances to play and establish a rhythm at running back could greatly benefit Vaughn. The problem is he already drew the ire of Bruce Arians in OTAs when he was absent from a practice on Tuesday, which Arians then expressed his hope that Vaughn would make a better decision the next day. He got the message as he was back on Wednesday. Vaughn isn’t just playing to see the field, he has to earn his spot on the roster. C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope will be in camp and could potentially replace him. At the same time, Vaughn can simultaneously show that he should be the number one guy in 2022 as Jones, Fournette and Bernard are all set to be free agents. It’s quite an odd juxtaposition that isn’t seen too often.