The Buccaneers had outlined a plan for their quarterbacks in the first two preseason games, and it was one that seemed pretty simple.
In the first contest, Baker Mayfield got the start. After he finished up, Kyle Trask got a go with the first-team offense to show what he could do in relatively equal action.
As such, it was expected that Tampa Bay would take a similar approach in its second preseason game. The only difference was that Trask was set to start against the Jets with many expecting that Mayfield would relieve him.
However, the Buccaneers threw an M. Night Shymalan-esque plot twist into the quarterback battle. Despite suiting up for the game, Mayfield didn’t play at all against the Jets; Trask played the entire first half and later came on in relief of third-string quarterback John Wolford after he was stretchered off with a neck injury just before the end of the third quarter.
Naturally, that led many to question why the Buccaneers didn’t play Mayfield. Bowles attempted to explain the decision after the game.
“It was all about whether we were going to keep the offensive line in the ballgame,” Bowles told reporters, per ESPN. “We really wanted to see Kyle in a two-minute situation, so once we got to the two-minute situation and Kyle got that in, we really didn’t want to play Baker in the second half because we were changing the line up. We wanted John to get some of the work, so we left [Mayfield] out.”
That explanation makes some sense, but it does beg a key question. Why didn’t the Buccaneers rotate Mayfield in earlier and then allow Trask to effort a two-minute drill when the time came? That was a topic that Bowles did not broach.
Of course, some viewed Mayfield sitting out the contest as a sign that he had won the starting job over Trask. Bowles quashed that speculation after the game when he declined to provide a timetable for naming a starting quarterback.
“We’ll name it when we name it,” Bowles said of the starting quarterback job. “We feel comfortable with where we’re at, so we’ll go from there.”
Bowles’ plans in naming a starter are murky, and so too are his plans for the team’s third preseason contest. As it stands, Mayfield and Trask are the only healthy quarterbacks on Tampa Bay’s roster following Wolford’s injury.
If Bowles declines to name a starter until after the third preseason game, his usage of Mayfield and Trask could say a lot about the team’s preferred starting quarterback. However, if the team signs another quarterback to soak up some snaps behind the duo, it’s possible that Mayfield and Trask could both be used sparingly to save them for the regular season.
As such, it’s important not to put too much stock into the final preseason game.
POWER RANKINGS: Where Buccaneers rank in league’s pecking order post-Tom Brady
Regardless of when the Buccaneers name a starter, Bowles believes that the top quarterback will have enough time to settle into his role and gain continuity with the first-string offense.
“They’ve had it all camp; they’ve had it all spring. We don’t worry about the continuity part — everybody has gotten plenty of reps together,” Bowles said. “Two weeks will be fine for us. We just need some game time, so everybody is going to play.”
Soon, we’ll see if Mayfield or Trask ends up getting the call for the Buccaneers. For now, it still appears to be an open competition — even if Mayfield is looking like the competition’s leader.