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Young Bucs Impress in 2021 Preseason-Opening Loss

Second-year RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn stood out in his first NFL preseason game and rookie QB Kyle Trask made strides in his NFL debut as the Buccaneers took a 19-14 preseason loss to Cincinnati on Saturday night


Tom Brady took his very first preseason snaps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Saturday night at Raymond James Stadium, and so did Kyle Trask. Those snaps surely meant a lot more to the rookie than the reigning Super Bowl champion quarterback.

Neither Brady nor Trask put up notable numbers in the Buccaneers' 19-14 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals but the former set in motion the team's Super Bowl LV title defense and the latter looked well within his element. Brady, who joined the Bucs in 2020 and saw that preseason cancelled due to the pandemic, only played one series on Saturday. Trask played most of the second half and impressed his coach despite underwhelming numbers.

"I thought Kyle played well," said Head Coach Bruce Arians. "He went in there and made some throws [that] guys need to make plays for. I like his poise and where he's at."

Trask completed just four of 15 passes for 15 yards but he put a couple of deep passes in position that his receivers could have potentially made some big plays in a tight game. Arians didn't specifically want his big-armed rookie to air it out on Saturday night, but liked the decision-making considering what the defense gave him.

"That's just the way it was," said the coach. "That's what he saw and he put some good ones out there. We've just got to catch them."

The Buccaneers scored first but trailed at halftime by a point thanks to a failed trick play on a two-point conversion that led to Ryan Succop illegally kicking an extra point from the two-yard line. The Buccaneers took a six-point lead after forcing a turnover on each of Cincinnati's first three drives but then fell behind in the third quarter following two Ryan Griffin interceptions.

View the best photos from the Bucs first preseason game vs. the Cincinnati Bengals.

Brady and top reserve Blaine Gabbert each got one drive each, with Gabbert leading a touchdown drive on the second possession following a forced fumble and fumble recovery by linebacker Lavonte David. Second-year running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn was a focal point of that scoring drive, with five touches for 22 yards including a two-yard touchdown run. Vaughn also impressed with several special teams plays and showed elusiveness in the open field.

"Ke'Shawn I thought played lights-out," said Arians. "He made a hell of a play as a gunner. He ran the ball well, blocked well. I thought he made a really nice step, especially his special teams snaps. We know he can run, we know he can catch, but those plays on special teams were big for him."

The Buccaneers were down by 10 in the fourth quarter when veteran linebacker Joe Jones, one of the team's few offseason acquisitions, intercepted a pass and returned it 16 yards for a touchdown. Jones is in a battle with rookies K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard for reserve spots behind David and Devin White. Trask completed a scrambling two-point conversion to tight end Codey McElroy to make it a two-point game but the Buccaneers never got a shot to try a game-winning field goal.

In addition to Trask, the Buccaneers got some good first-game tape from rookies Joe Tryon and Jaelon Darden. Tryon appeared to get a sack in the third quarter but was flagged for unnecessary roughness on a call that clearly displeased Arians. Darden caught two passes for 19 yards, including an impressive 13-yard screen.

Of Tryon, Arians said: "He was disruptive. He showed some stuff. He didn't get there all the time but he was disruptive."

Of Darden: "He looked like a rookie. He's hand-fighting too much instead of just using his speed. It's just things he's got to learn. But he's doing alright. He looked real fast when we got that little quick screen out to him. He's dangerous with his hands on the ball."

Overall, the Buccaneers gained just 159 yards of offense and committed nine penalties. Fortunately, the only apparent injury of note was a knee sprain for rookie guard Sadarius Hutcherson.

"There was good and bad, a lot of bad, a lot of ugly," said Arians. "The good was that we came out healthy. It's a start."

Neither team scored on its first possession but the Buccaneers cracked the scoreboard on their second drive, with Gabbert at the helm. Tight end O.J. Howard had a key 15-yard catch early in the drive on third-and-10. Giovani Bernard's second third-down conversion kept the drive alive in Cincinnati territory and tight end Tanner Hudson made a leaping grab for 18 yards to get the Bucs a first down at the Bengals' two-yard line. Two plays later, Vaughn powered over left guard for the touchdown, moving a huge pile of players into the end zone to complete an impressive 79-yard drive.

The Buccaneers lined up to go for two with an unusual formation but then pulled the unit together and had Ryan Succop knock home the one-point kick. However, that ploy was ruled illegal – an extra point now has to be kicked from the 15 – and that meant the play was considered aborted and the Bucs had to settle for six points on the score.

The Bengals had great field position on their first drive but lost a scoring opportunity when David ripped the ball away from Perine at the Bucs' 18-yard line. Cincinnati got a good start to its second drive, too, after a 40-yard kickoff return by Darius Phillips. This drive also ended in a turnover, however, as cornerback Antonio Hamilton forced a fumble by tight end Mitchell Wilcox that was recovered by rookie linebacker K.J. Britt at the Bucs' 12.

The Bengals' third drive also ended in a turnover, technically. Hagan made a stunning one-handed interception deep in Cincinnati territory but then bobbled the ball as he began his return and it was hauled in by wide receiver Miles Thomas. That created a new possession for the Bengals, who then drove 69 yards on 10 plays to end in rookie running back Chris Evans' one-yard touchdown run just before halftime. The drive was sustained by three defensive penalties, two on third down, including a roughing-the-passer penalty on what otherwise would have been rookie OLB Joe Tryon's first NFL sack.

Tampa Bay's defense got a quick three-and-out to start the second half but Cincinnati still got the first scoring opportunity after a hard slant pass bounced off wide receiver Tyler Johnson and was hauled in by safety Trayvon Henderson at the Bucs' 42. Bucs cornerback Dee Delaney appeared to get the ball back for the Bucs a few snaps later on an interception on the left sideline but the play was overturned by a pass interference penalty on Delaney. Tampa Bay's defense held after that first down and the Bengals settled for a field goal by rookie Evan McPherson for a 10-6 lead.

Three plays into the next drive, Ryan Griffin tried to zip a pass into heavy traffic to Jaydon Mickens and it was deflected and then intercepted by Bengals safety Kavon Frazier. Rookie cornerback Cameron Kinley was then flagged for unnecessary roughness for his hit on wideout Trenton Irwin, making it first down at the Bucs' five. Cornerback Nate Brooks' second-down pass breakup helped force Cincinnati to settle for Austin Seibert's 24-yard field goal and a seven-point lead for the visitors midway through the third quarter.

Trask took over from there and his first drive was a three-and-out, though he provided some momentary thrills with a deep ball to first-year wideout Travis Jonsen that just missed. Cincinnati's Kyle Shurmur took his team 48 yards on 12 plays on the ensuing drive for another field goal and a 16-6 lead, eating up most of the rest of the third quarter in the process.

Trask got the Bucs to midfield on his next possession but the home team had to punt. Two plays into the ensuing possession, Shurmur tried to throw a pass in the right flat to tight end Mason Schreck but Jones caught it instead and darted 15 yards into the end zone for the Bucs' second touchdown. Tampa Bay went for two and McElroy was able to haul in Trask's scrambling lob into the end zone, making it a two-point game with 11 minutes to play.

The Bucs got the ball back with a little less than eight minutes to play but had to punt after getting one first down. After a Cincinnati three-and-out, the Bucs started again at their own 40 with 4:27 to play. Trask and Jonsen nearly hooked up on a deep pass down the right sideline but Jonsen couldn't quite get a second foot down and the Bucs ended up punting back with 3:34 to go.

Cincinnati erased all but 16 seconds of that remaining time to make it a five-point game on Seibert's 38-yarder. Trask was sacked on the last play of the game to end any thought of a comeback.

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