Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Draft Season | S.S. Mailbag

This week, Bucs fans have questions about the team's outside linebacker group, the likelihood of a first-round draftee starting right away, and more


Over the course of the last week, I've been posting a series of articles looking at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' entire history of drafting in the first through seventh rounds. Here's a link to the most recent one concerning Round One picks; it contains links to all the others.

In the course of gathering information for those stories, I ended up looking at the games played and games started totals for a good number of players in Bucs history. And doing so prompted me to look up a little team trivia, which I'll share with you here. I'm going to get too deep into it because, frankly, I'm not sure if it's as interesting to everyone else as it was to me.

My question: Which player in Bucs history played in the most regular season games without ever making a single start?

Now a lot of you can probably think of a good place to start the guessing. Punters and kickers never officially start games, so if you keep one of them around for a long time he's going to get a lot of games played without any starts. And, yes, 10 of the top players on the Bucs' list of most games played without a start were punters or kickers. Ah, but we can't forget about long-snappers, because they're never on the field for the first offensive or defensive plays, which is how a "start" is earned. And sure enough, the answer to the question above comes from that group of players. Here are the top five:

1. LS Andrew Economos: 108. "Eco" was the Bucs' long-snapper from 2006 through 2013, which is a really nice run for a player at that position. (He was very good at it.) He missed 13 games in 2006 and another seven in 2011 but still surpassed 100 games played.

2. K Michael Husted: 96. I'll admit, I had guessed that Martin Gramatica would be the kicker with the most games as a Buccaneer, but it's actually Husted, who held the job for six seasons from 1993-98. He never missed a game in that span, which is how he finished ahead of Gramatica.

3. K Martin Gramatica: 89. Gramatica also played six seasons in Tampa, but he missed two games in 2001 and was released after 11 games in 2006, which is how he falls behind Husted, if only by a little.

4t. P Josh Bidwell: 80. The only Bucs punter ever to make the Pro Bowl, Bidwell played in every game from 2004 through 2008.

4t. P Mark Royals: 80. Royals was the Bucs' punter in 1990 and 1991 and then again from 1999-2001. That's five seasons during which he played in every game.

Now, I'll bet some of you are wondering, who is the non-specialist who has played the most games without a start for the Buccaneers. At first glance, it looks like Ed Brady, who is listed as a linebacker. However, Brady was in fact a long-snapper, a job he held for 12 NFL seasons, the last four (1992-95) in Tampa. He only played a handful of snaps on defense during his career. Around the turn of the millennium NFL teams gradually stopped listing (or in some cases, actually playing) their long-snappers at another position.

Sam Anno is also listed as a linebacker but was just a long-snapper for the Bucs. Actually, I shouldn't say "just" because he was a very good special teams player and was popular with Buccaneer fans. The actual position player with the most games played for Tampa Bay without a single start was cornerback Billy Cesare. He logged 42 games as a Buc but no starts. Cesare was primarily a special teams player but he did see a little bit of action on defense in 1981.

After I looked up those guys, I wanted to know the answer to what is basically the opposite question: Who played the fewest games for the Buccaneers while starting every one of them. Here are the top five on that list:

1. QB Mike Boryla: 1. The Bucs signed Boryla in 1977 and he made one start in Week Two of the 1978 season after rookie Doug Williams got hurt. That proved to be the only Buccaneer game appearance for the former Bengal and Eagle.

2. RB Charlie Garner: 3. Garner, a former Pro Bowler, was part of a long list of veteran free agents the Bucs signed in 2004 as they tried to get back into Super Bowl contention. Garner started the first three games of the season but then suffered a knee injury playing against his former team, the Raiders, and landed on injured reserve. Those would be the last three games of his career.

3. QB Byron Leftwich: 3. Probably better known for being the Bucs' offensive coordinator for the last four years, Leftwich signed with the Buccaneers in 2009 to be a bridge quarterback while rookie first-rounder Josh Freeman developed. He started the first three games of that season before being replaced by Josh Johnson, who was himself subsequently replaced by Freeman in the eighth game. Leftwich went back to the Steelers the next year.

4. T Luke Petitgout: 4. The Buccaneers signed Petitgout to be their left tackle after he had played eight seasons for the Giants. Petitgout did indeed start the first four games but then sustained a season-ending knee injury, which ushered in a long run as a starter for Donald Penn. That proved to be Petitgout's last season.

5. G Kurt Schumaker: 4. Schumaker played three seasons with the Saints before coming to Tampa in 1978. He started in Weeks 3-6 at left guard but then suffered what would prove to be a career-ending knee injury.

The lesson here: I'm not capable of writing a short mailbag intro.

Now on to your questions.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to

Is Jason Licht and the rest of the Bucs staff really sold on current players they have at the OLB position?

- trucking_dre12 (via Instagram)

Well, you're asking me to do some projecting here, because if Licht and company were for some reason not sold the OLBs they have, they certainly aren't going to come out and say it. I would say that, yes, they like the edge rushers that are on the roster but would still like to add more talent. Whether it's through developing the players on the team or adding to the position, Bowles stated very clearly at the Scouting Combine that the Buccaneers need to get more pressure off the edges this coming season.

Unless there are any lingering issues from Shaq Barrett's 2022 Achilles tendon injury, it's hard to understand why they wouldn't be sold on him. Last season was cut short but in 54 career games with the Buccaneers he has 40.5 sacks. That's really good production.

Joe Tryon-Shoyinka's total of 4.0 sacks in his first full year as a starter was probably not what the Bucs had envisioned, but he did have 14 quarterback hits. I think the Bucs believe that Tryon-Shoyinka has the ability to get to the passer and they just need to see him convert more pressures into actual sacks.

The Bucs clearly showed that they are sold on Anthony Nelson by re-signing him this offseason despite a very tight cap situation. Nelson came on strong late in the 2021 season and had 5.5 sacks last year despite only becoming a starter around midseason when Barrett got hurt. He also forced three fumbles, including two that were huge in late-season wins that captured the NFC South title. At the very least he's a nice rotational piece, if Barrett and Tryon-Shoyinka are thriving as the starters. And Cam Gill is sneakily kind of interesting. He spent last year on IR but I'd like to see what he can do with more playing time.

I don't think the Buccaneers will pass on a chance to add a really good pass-rusher in the draft if it falls that way, and there are plenty of intriguing Day Two options this year. That said, yes, I think that management is sold on the OLBs currently on the roster.

Hey, Scott:

Tristan Wirfs is awesome and I'm pretty sure he started right away as a rookie. I think Devin White and Vita did too, but I don't think our last two first rounders were starters right away. I've got a two-part question for you: How many of the Bucs first rounders started the very first game of their rookie season, and what positions could the Bucs most likely get a week one starter at in this year's draft? Thanks! Can't wait for the draft!

- Josh W. (via email)

You don't have to wait. It's here!

You are correct that Tristan Wirfs started in Week One of his rookie season, as did Devin White. Vita Vea actually did not; he suffered a calf injury in training camp and missed the first three games of the 2018 campaign. He got into the starting lineup pretty quickly after his return.

The Bucs have technically only had one more first-round pick since Wirfs. Joe Tryon-Shoyinka was the last pick of the first round in 2021 and he actually did start in Week One of his rookie year. That's a little bit misleading, though, because he was only on the field for the first snap because the Bucs lined up in an unusual formation that had him on the field instead of a safety along with the starting edge rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul. Otherwise, the only five games Tryon-Shoyinka started in his rookie year were when JPP was sidelined by injuries. He did become a full-time starter last year.

It's easy to forget, but Logan Hall wasn't actually a first-round pick last year. The Bucs traded down to the first pick of the second round before drafting him. So he doesn't really fit into the question here but for the record he did not start any games as a rookie.

There are some other technicalities to work through to answer your first question, injuries like Vea's or guys who didn't start Week One but essentially were starters for most of their rookie seasons (example: Davin Joseph). Still, I can answer your question as it was asked: Of the 42 players the Buccaneers have picked in the first round, 25 started the first game of their rookie season. That includes a recent run of eight straight first-rounders from 2010 (Gerald McCoy) through 2017 (O.J. Howard). Doug Williams started the opener of his 1978 rookie campaign but got hurt in that one and didn't start Week Two. Michael Clayton started 13 games as a rookie in 2004, but Week One wasn't one of them. Bo Jackson didn't start in Week One in 1986 largely because he never played a down for the Buccaneers. Et cetera.

If you want to play right away after being drafted in the first round, a good strategy is to be a running back. Other than the Bo Knows He Doesn't Want to Play in Tampa situation, the Bucs have drafted four other running backs in Round One and they all started in Week One.

So that's where I'll start my answer to your second question, Josh. Say the Buccaneers draft Texas running back Bijan Robinson at number 19, as Eric Edholm of predicted in his mock draft this week. Now, I think the Bucs really like Rachaad White and he is the presumptive starter this fall, but you don't draft a running back in the first round if you're not going to play him a lot. Robinson or, say, Alabama's Jahmyr Gibbs, would certainly give White a spirited run for the starting job in Week One.

The other most obvious example is offensive tackle. One way or another, the Buccaneers have to find a new starter at that position because Donovan Smith was released in March. That could be an internal candidate, like Luke Goedeke or Brandon Walton, but if the Bucs take a tackle at number 19 it will surely be with the idea of him starting right away. Whether he is a natural left or right tackle will determine whether the Bucs move Wirfs, their All-Pro right tackle, or not.

Other possibilities: If the Bucs draft a defensive back in the first round who is capable of playing in the slot, such as Alabama's Brian Branch, he could win that job by Week One. Now, whether he is then a "starter" in Week One would then hinge on whether the Bucs open that game in a nickel package on defense. A first-round offensive guard wouldn't necessarily be handed a starting job but he would surely be in the thick of the competition with the likes of Goedeke, Nick Leverett, Robert Hainsey and Matt Feiler. A first-round edge rusher would surely be in the rotation right away but I'm not sure he'd bump Tryon-Shoyinka, Shaq Barrett or Anthony Nelson out of a starting spot right away.

And then there's quarterback, and you can never tell at that spot. The Bucs could take one at number 19 but let him marinate for a while while Kyle Trask or Baker Mayfield starts, like they did with Josh Freeman, and Vinny Testaverde in 1987 and Trent Dilfer in 1994. Or they could throw him right in, like they did with Jameis Winston in 2015 and Williams back in 1978.

How equipped to start do you has Trask looked so far? What did you think of his press conference? Do you think he can start?

- nvs_est.86 (via Instagram)

Ah yes, speaking of young Mr. Trask, we have a fan who wants an update. To the first question, I wish I knew how to embed a shrug emoji into this article, but that's not in my skillset. I have no idea how ready to start third-year quarterback Kyle Trask has looked because the Bucs haven't had any real practices yet. They're still in Phase One of the offseason program, which is just meetings and weight room work. We'll have to wait until OTAs in May until he is throwing against a defense, and even then it will be non-contact with no real pressure on the quarterbacks.

Apart from that, we've got almost nothing to work with in this evaluation. He threw his first nine regular-season passes in the fourth quarter of last year's regular-season finale, playing with a full group of reserves. I certainly didn't see anything that day that would make me lean one way or another. Even his preseason work has been with reserves. We haven't seen him work with, and against, starters yet. That's not a copout, it's just a fact.

And I personally don't put much stock in how a guy – especially a young guy who hasn't been in the limelight at the NFL level yet – "performs" at the podium. Trask hasn't had to give a lot of press conferences yet in his pro career, thanks to his reserve role, but he has always seemed rather even-keeled and reserved when answering questions. Does that mean anything? Not to me. Do you want him to be more charming at the microphone, or more bold, to somehow seem like more of a leader? I'm not sure that would mean anything either. His main points seemed fine to me – he knows he's in a true competition, he's focusing on working as professionally as possible from day to day, and he's mostly shutting out the outside noise.

Do I think he can start? Well, better football minds than mine think he at least has a shot. As Jason Licht and former Head Coach Bruce Arians have explicitly said, the Buccaneers didn't use a second-round pick on a quarterback thinking that his ceiling was as a backup. He has traits they like. Todd Bowles, who succeeded Arians as head coach, is clearly planning to give him a shot. "He understands he has a chance to start," said Bowles. "He's working his tail off. Me and Kyle have a very good relationship. We've been honest since Day One when he came in there, and I look forward to see what he does."

On what he likes about what he's seen from Trask so far, Bowles said, "Before we changed the offense, it's just his knowledge of the game. I think Kyle has a lot of moxie that you don't get to see. Those of us who see him every day – Kyle does more work on the side away from the cameras. Every time I look up and come into the office, he's out there working out by himself, trying to get better. And I think that's number-one for a quarterback to have, his inner drive. His inner drive is there, he can read defenses, he can process very quickly and he can run an offense."

Ultimately, we can't know the answer to this question until we see him with live bullets flying. Trask was one of three quarterbacks taken in the span of four picks in the 2021 draft, as he went 64th, Kellen Mond went 66th to the Vikings and Davis Mills went 67th to the Texans. Mond is already out of Minnesota and Mills had his ups and downs as a starter for Houston, which may be poised to take another quarterback very high in this week's draft. We already have evidence on those guys, but we don't have it yet on Trask. Perhaps we will soon.

Related Content

Latest Headlines