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FAB 1. Trask Reminds Arians, Christensen Of Luck
Bucs rookie quarterback Kyle Trask’s football idol happens to be someone Bruce Arians is very familiar with.
Arians was Indianapolis’ quarterbacks coach during Manning’s first three seasons. He knows a thing or two about coaching pocket passers, moving on from Manning to Cleveland’s Kelly Holcomb and then to Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger.
When the Steelers didn’t renew the offensive coordinator’s contract, Arians was hired to call plays for Indianapolis in 2012 – the year the Colts selected Andrew Luck with the first overall pick. During this week’s Bucs OTAs, Arians offered a comparison between the two.
“Mentally, he isn’t far behind what Andrew did in the same offense,” Arians said. “What Andrew did that year was unbelievable. I’m not saying he is Andrew Luck, but mentally he is really, really sharp.”
Luck led the Colts to the playoffs during his rookie season, helping Arians win NFL Head Coach of the Year while filling in for Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with leukemia. The rookie passed for 4,374 yards with 23 touchdowns and 18 interceptions in 2012. With legend Tom Brady under contract for the next two years in Tampa Bay it might be some time before Trask has the opportunity to put up those numbers.
But so far, so good in terms of what the Bucs got in their second-round pick. The 6-foot-5, 240-pound Trask is off to a good start in his first NFL offseason.
“It’s been great to have a guy starting from scratch,” Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “When you’re starting from scratch the guy knows nothing about nothing. … It’s great to start from the beginning.
“He’s been doing a great job. He’s had a great three weeks and he’s getting better every day. He’s a smart kid who knows what he’s doing. He just has to get repetitions. The more repetitions he’s gets, the better he’ll get. I like where he’s at, and he does a lot of good stuff this early. He sees the field well and he commands the huddle. He’s had a good start here and we hope he can keep it up.”
Bucs QB Kyle Trask, OC Byron Leftwich and QBs coach Clyde Christensen – Photo by: USA Today
Tampa Bay quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen says there is a lot to like about the SEC’s leading passer from a year ago. With Brady and Blaine Gabbert working out on their own with the team’s veterans, it’s just been Trask and veteran Ryan Griffin taking all of the reps in the OTAs. That’s accelerated the rookie’s learning curve so far.
“My first impression was that he picked it up pretty darn quickly, that he’s a very accurate guy with the football,” Christensen said. “Probably the thing that has jumped out is that he’s just a rookie and we’ve thrown a lot at him. He’s swimming right now. There’s no short cut on this thing, but he’s got a lot of great reps.
“It’s been good having Griff here because it gives him someone who has kind of done this stuff before. It gives him a chance to model it out in front of him. He’s been impressive. He hit the wall a little bit today, but again we hit him with all of the situations. Now it will be a repeat going into mini-camp when we’ll do it a second time.”
Brady and Gabbert are expected to return next week for the team’s mandatory three-day mini-camp. That means that Trask will have fewer reps, but he’ll also get the opportunity to be around Brady and learn from the best.
Christensen has been impressed with how the former Gators star has processed the playbook and the information thus far.
“It’s been good,” Christensen said. “He’s a real deliberate learner. He takes it nice and slow. He tries to get the details and once he gets, he gets it. So he’s not a guy who looks at it once and has got it. He’s a guy who is going to mull over it and call most nights with some questions. He watches a ton of film. That rookie mini-camp a couple of times I think I mentioned to you that I left here and by the time I left the building the light was still on in the QB room. He was just kind of going over his notes and it means a ton to him. I think he’ll be a guy that will get it slow and steady, but then get it the right way and have it in order. I think he’ll be really deliberate in how he processes this information.”
Bucs QB Kyle Trask and QBs coach Clyde Christensen – Photo by: USA Today
Arians wasn’t the only one drawing comparisons between Luck and Trask. Christensen was the Colts quarterbacks coach under Arians in Indianapolis in 2012 and he got to coach Luck in his rookie season.
“Now Trask – that energizes me,” Christensen said. “You see a guy like Trask who wants to be good and we feel like we’re starting again. The last time we had a guy like him was probably Luck his rookie year. That was probably one of the most fun years there was just because you come in with such a clean slate and start rolling.
“It’s fun to have a rookie guy. Those other guys (Bucs veteran QBs) are well down the road, they understand what we’re doing. They’re more maintenance as far as coaching. It’s not like you’re having to rebuild anything. Just having a young, rookie guy is for me one of the really fun, fun things about coaching. You just start from the beginning and you start from scratch there.”
FAB 2. Trask Has Drawn Comparisons To Johnson, Too
Bucs rookie quarterback Kyle Trask isn’t just being compared to former Colts Pro Bowler Andrew Luck. Tampa Bay’s second-round pick has also drawn a more familiar comparison.
Trask is big and built for an offense that favors a pocket passer like Bruce Arians’ system. He has a strong arm, but not a rocket arm. He’s a touch passer like Brad Johnson was when he won a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay in 2002.
Trask is also a very cerebral quarterback. Johnson, who was a Pro Bowler in 2002, was that way, too.
Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and QB Brad Johnson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“People always want to compare people,” Arians said on draft night after the Bucs selected Trask. “To me, he is like Brad Johnson – and he was pretty damn good.”
Johnson was also a top-notch competitor. He had to bide his time in Minnesota for a few years behind the likes of Rich Gannon and Sean Salisbury at first, and then Warren Moon, before becoming a starter. In 1998, Randall Cunningham replaced him before Johnson was traded to Washington in 1999.
Trask was a backup to D’Eriq King in high school and Feleipe Franks at Florida before becoming a starter. Now in the NFL, Trask will likely have to wait at least two years to have a chance of succeeding Tom Brady as the Bucs’ starter. Trask’s willingness to be patient and wait his turn while remaining ready and competitive at the same time made him a very attractive QB prospect to Arians.
“His competitive spirit,” Arians said. “In today’s day, everybody transfers. Things don’t go right – you transfer. He hung in there and fought it out. I’ve got all the respect in the world for Dan Mullen. He’s a good friend [and] he does a hell of a job with quarterbacks. And Todd Grantham I coached with. We did our homework. Everything about [Trask] – he’s accurate, he’s smart, he’s tough, and he knows how to move inside the pocket. We don’t draft guys to run, we draft them to throw. And he’s accurate as hell. Really excited about him.”
Trask’s competitiveness and good decision-making showed up immediately during the rookie mini-camp. It continued over the next two weeks during the OTAs.
“Yeah, it’s not easy when you’re going against our defense,” Arians said. “He has seen a multitude of coverages and blitzes, so I’m really impressed. Having worked with guys for the first time in this offense, he’s at the top of the list as far as the learning curve and he’s throwing the football really well.”
Jake Arians, Bruce’s son, was a recent guest on the Pewter Report Podcast and raved about Trask and shot holes into some of his supposed weaknesses, such as his supposed lack of arm strength and the fact that he was surrounded by a plethora of talent at Florida. Trask threw the ball to the likes of tight end Kyle Pitts and wide receivers Van Jefferson, Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes in college.
Bucs QB Kyle Trask – Photo by: USA Today
“He was throwing to Pitts and he was throwing to Toney,” Jake Arians said. “So you’re telling me he can throw to NFL talent. Okay. I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that. So did Mac Jones and so did Tua [Tagovailoa at Alabama]. You’re telling me you can throw to guys at the next level with that speed and that ability to move.
“If you want to see how good he is, take all of those Georgia defensive guys that just got drafted, and all of those Alabama guys who just got drafted. Put those two tapes on – and watch those two games and pretend he’s playing in a different uniform than Florida. You’ll see all that you need to know that the kid can play – and he doesn’t have to play now.”
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard asked Jake Arians if he thought Trask would or should beat out Blaine Gabbert for the Bucs’ backup job behind Brady.
“I don’t think he can and I don’t think he should either way this year,” Arians said. “Another year – a full year, you are hoping because we took him with the 64th pick I hope he can sit behind Blaine. Because Blaine knows this offense better than Tom does. So him sitting in that room and getting that full dynamic with Clyde [Christensen] and Byron [Leftwich] and Tom [Moore] and B.A. when he’s down there – it’s a lot of voices to learn from.
“[Trask] is going to get a decent amount of reps, but not a ton because Tom takes a lot of reps. Blaine is going to take the rest. If we have a full training camp and the preseason games that will help. In a year from now you are hoping he can then be the No. 2 because you took him there and he slots in to that when Tom’s done. I don’t think he should and I don’t think he can at this point. I don’t think he can push Blaine as well as [Blaine] knows the offense at this point. Skill set-wise, you guys have been on the field watching Blaine throw. I don’t know if [Trask] is going to look better in practice for a while.”
Bucs QBs Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert – Photo by: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Pencil Trask in as the third-string quarterback this year behind Gabbert. Veteran Ryan Griffin might stick around as QB4 on the practice squad. Once he has a grasp of the Bucs playbook – and the experience from the preseason should help – I agree that Trask will make a run at Gabbert for the backup job next year, as Jake Arians expects him to.
“The way Tom is going, [Trask] might be on the second contract before he’s the starting quarterback of the Bucs,” Jake Arians said. “To me it was another great addition to the team – another value piece.”
Johnson, who had to split time with Casey Weldon at Florida State, was originally drafted to be a value piece in Minnesota. The Vikings used their ninth-round pick on him in 1992 – back when there were 12 rounds in the NFL Draft – and he started as their No. 3 quarterback. We all know how Johnson’s career wound up, especially his four years in Tampa Bay from 2001-04.
Trask appears to be on a similar path to that of Johnson’s – and the Bucs certainly hope he has similar success.
FAB 3. Analyzing Bucs Special Teams Tacklers
If you didn’t have the chance to read Jon Ledyard’s excellent analysis of Tampa Bay’s punt protection and coverage team in this week’s Bucs Briefing column, I highly recommend you doing so. It has video breakdowns of specific key situations from last year’s punt team.
I know it doesn’t sound like a terribly exciting topic at first. But remember that with all 22 starters returning from Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl team, this year’s roster battles will come down to special teams.
When reviewing last year’s special teams tackles from the punt and kickoff coverage the one thing that stands out is the balance. No Buccaneer had more than four special teams stops a year ago. A total of 14 Bucs had at least two special teams stops – mostly on punt returns because the majority of Bradley Pinion’s kickoffs were touchbacks.
Tampa Bay’s Special Teams Tackles – 2020
CB Ryan Smith 4
WR Justin Watson 4
CB Jamel Dean 3
FS Antoine Winfield, Jr. 3
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting 3
OLB Cam Gill 2
WR Jaydon Mickens 2
CB Herb Miller 2
LS Zach Triner 2
FS Andrew Adams 2
ILB Jack Cichy 2
FS Mike Edwards 2
OLB Anthony Nelson 2
ILB Kevin Minter 2
RB Kenjon Barner 1
DE Pat O’Connor 1
P Bradley Pinion 1
Last year’s unit was solid, but gave up a punt return for touchdown at Detroit, and nearly gave up another one in the playoffs in New Orleans that was called back due to a penalty on the Saints. It’s interesting to note that the Bucs didn’t force a fumble or recover a fumble on special teams. However, O’Connor blocked a punt at Denver, and Watson became the first wide receiver to record a sack when he snuffed out a fake punt against Carolina.
In 2019, Smith and Watson led the way for Tampa Bay with seven tackles apiece. Minter was next with five tackles. Here is how the Bucs’ special teams tackles broke down in 2019.
Tampa Bay’s Special Teams Tackles – 2019
CB Ryan Smith 7
WR Justin Watson 7
ILB Kevin Minter 5
DE Pat O’Connor 4
TE Antony Auclair 3
RB Dare Ogunbowale 3
RB T.J. Logan 2
ILB Deone Bucannon 2
OLB Sam Acho 1
ILB Lavonte David 1
CB Carlton Davis 1
K Matt Gay 1
CB Sean Murphy-Bunting 1
LS Zach Triner 1
SS Jordan Whitehead 1
FS Andrew Adams 1
P Bradley Pinion 1
Tampa Bay’s coverage teams had 42 tackles in 2019, but the tackling was much more top-heavy. Only eight players had multiple tackles on the season with Smith and Watson leading the way, which isn’t a surprise.
The Bucs will have to replace Smith’s production, in addition to other special teams stalwarts like Adams, Auclair and Cichy, as those players departed in free agency. It will be interesting to see which wide receivers, cornerbacks, linebackers or tight ends end up filling those roles in August.
FAB 4. Breaking Down The Bucs’ 2021 Roster
When I first started covering the Buccaneers in the mid-1990s Tampa Bay’s roster was littered with homegrown players from Florida, Florida State and Miami.
In 1995, the Bucs had Errict Rhett and Brad Culpepper from Florida; Lawrence Dawsey, Martin Mayhew, Casey Weldon, Derrick Brooks, Clifton Abraham and Toddrick McIntosh from Florida State; and Warren Sapp, Horace Copeland, Lamar Thomas and Mike Sullivan from Miami. That’s 12 in-state prospects.
Today, there are shockingly no Seminoles on Tampa Bay’s 2021 roster, and just one Gator – quarterback Kyle Trask. The only Hurricane is kicker Jose Borregales, who will only make the practice squad with a solid camp and preseason.
In fact, there are more players from Florida Atlantic – two (cornerback Herb Miller and receiver John Franklin) – and just as many from South Florida (outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul) and Florida A&M (offensive tackle Calvin Ashley) – as there are from Florida or Miami this year.
The Bucs drafted heavily in-state in the 1990s to help with lagging attendance – and because Florida, Florida State and Miami were all Top 20 programs back then and National Championship contenders in some years. The Gators, Seminoles and Hurricanes cranked out more NFL talent back then as a result, and the Bucs took advantage of it.
Now, the Bucs look elsewhere for talent. Tampa Bay has three players on the roster from North Texas right now.
Not Texas … North Texas.
Cornerback Nate Brooks, outside linebacker Ladarius Hamilton and wide receiver Jaelon Darden represent the Mean Green.
James Madison even has more representatives in Tampa Bay right now than any Florida school with three – guard Aaron Stinnie, safety Raven Greene and tackle Josh Wells.
Here’s a look at the colleges that have most representatives on Tampa Bay’s current roster heading into Bucs mini-camp.
South Carolina – 5: K Ryan Succop, G Sadarius Hutcherson, C Donell Stanley, DT Kobe Smith, TE Jerell Adams
LSU – 4: ILB Kevin Minter, RB Leonard Fournette, ILB Devin White, WR Cyril Grayson
Washington – 4: NT Vita Vea, KR Jaydon Mickens, DL Benning Potoa’e, OLB Joe Tryon
Auburn – 3: CB Carlton Davis III, CB Jamel Dean, ILB K.J. Britt
Minnesota – 3: FS Antoine Winfield, Jr., WR Tyler Johnson, OT Sam Renner
Nebraska – 3: DT Ndamukong Suh, ILB Lavonte David and DT Khalil Davis
James Madison – 3: OT Josh Wells, SS Raven Green, G Aaron Stinnie
North Texas – 3: CB Nate Brooks, OLB Ladarius Hamilton and WR Jaelon Darden
It’s doubtful that South Carolina holds the top spot once the 53-man roster is pared down. Hutcherson, Stanley, Smith and Adams are long shots to make the team.
With Grayson far from a lock from being on the 53-man roster, and the same being said for Mickens, it’s likely that there will be multiple colleges with three players on Tampa Bay’s roster when all is said and done.
But there won’t be any from Florida State or Miami – and just one from Florida, which is a far cry from how it used to be in Tampa Bay.
FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• BRADY COMES CLEAN ABOUT FOURTH DOWN GAFFE IN CHICAGO: Although neither he nor head coach Bruce Arians admitted it during the regular season, Bucs QB Tom Brady finally owned up to not realizing it was fourth down in Chicago. Brady poked fun at himself in a recent Tik Tok video. Watch it below.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been as confused as I am in this moment.”@TomBrady reacts to the play where he thought it was 3rd down, but it was really 4th 😂 pic.twitter.com/yx9cvroU5b
• WINSTON MUST OVERCOME TURNOVERS TO START IN NEW ORLEANS: Former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will get a shot at becoming Drew Brees’ successor in New Orleans this year. He’ll have to beat out Taysom Hill to do so, but he’ll also have to overcome his penchant for turning the ball over. Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, threw 30 interceptions in his final season in Tampa Bay, including an NFL-record seven pick-sixes.
Jameis Winston has the most turnovers in the NFL since 2014 among active QBs.
• ANOTHER BIG WEEK ON THE PEWTER REPORT PODCAST: The Pewter Report Podcast is energized by CELSIUS and broadcasts four live episodes each week in the offseason – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 4:00 p.m. ET unless there is a special event.
Bucs OTAs are in full swing and there was plenty to talk about in this week’s four episodes of the Pewter Report Podcast on our YouTube channel. Check out all of this week’s shows below.
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Matt Matera analyze the Bucs’ salary cap and break down the coaches’ press conference on Monday’s edition.
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Matt Matera discuss the news coming out of Tampa Bay’s OTA on Tuesday.
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard and Mark Cook continued the discussion of Bucs OTAs on Wednesday.
Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard is joined by James Hill aka Mr. Bucs Nation to discuss his YouTube channel and the Bucs’ prospects of repeating as Super Bowl champs.
Watch the Pewter Report Podcasts live on our PewterReportTV channel on YouTube.com and please subscribe (it’s free) and add your comments. All Pewter Report Podcasts are archived so you can watch the recorded episodes if you missed them live.
There is no better time to listen to or watch a new Pewter Report Podcast – energized by CELSIUS – than Friday afternoon on the way home from work, or early Saturday morning during your workout or while running errands.
• BUCS ROOKIE QB TRASK PUT TO THE TASK BY MARIUCCI: ESPN’s Jon Gruden’s QB Camp is no more with the former Bucs head coach back in the NFL with the Las Vegas Raiders. So former NFL head coach and QB guru Steve Mariucci has taken over the whiteboard reins in working with NFL Draft prospect quarterbacks.
Prior to the draft he put Florida QB Kyle Trask, who would be picked by Tampa Bay in the second round, through the paces. Watch the video below as Trask and Mariucci work the whiteboard together.
“He’s at a position that we’ve only drafted, since I’ve been here, one quarterback,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said after drafting Trask. “[We’ve] always wanted to, it’s just never fallen the right way for us. There’s a lot to like about him. He’s a big kid. He’s tough. He’s very smart. He’s a great teammate, great leader. He has plenty of arm talent – great touch. He’s a quick processor and he’s played very well there. I love his story of perseverance. The guy’s a fighter. He’s a competitor and once again, a great team player. He’s had a lot of great players there at Florida he’s thrown the ball around to, and has had a lot of success. And we have a lot of great players here, too.
“This is a great place for a quarterback to come and be groomed. To be playing with the G.O.A.T. (Tom Brady) and you have some great, great coaching – great coaching staff.”
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
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