The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first preseason game of 2022 is only eight days away and many players are already eager for some "live" action to break up the monotony of training camp. They will get that action on the evening of Saturday, August 13 when the Miami Dolphins come to town for a game at Raymond James Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET.
With 90 players on the camp roster and almost all of them healthy, it won't be easy for the coaches to divvy up the available snaps and get a good look at everyone on the roster. However, there are some players who seem more likely to get a significant amount of playing time than others. Let's take a look at five of them.
1. QB Kyle Trask
Head Coach Todd Bowles has already said that Tom Brady will not play in the first preseason game, which comes as no surprise. The Buccaneers still have three other quarterbacks on the roster, but it's safe to say they know the least about second-year man Kyle Trask. Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich have been saying since OTAs that one of their goals for this preseason is to get an extended look at their second-round pick from a year ago.
Fortunately for Trask, he's been getting a more extensive tune-up lately. Brady got a "vet day" on Wednesday and was excused to attend to a personal matter on Friday, so more snaps have been available for Trask, Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin. Brady may or may not be back at work on Saturday, so that trend could continue right when the young quarterback needs it the most.
"Mentally, they're getting a lot of reps," said Bowles of those three passers. "It can only help them. It can only help them get reps and see everything full-speed and going against the first defense. Blaine is seasoned, obviously. He's getting some good looks and Kyle [Trask] is getting a lot of experience."
It's clear that Tampa Bay's coaching staff has a comfort level with Gabbert as Brady's primary backup, a role he is almost certain to fill in 2022 for the third straight year. Griffin is actually one of the longest-tenured quarterbacks in franchise history, and thus a known commodity as well. Barring multiple injuries, Trask is not likely to see meaningful action during the 2022 regular season, so this is his time to make the case for being the franchise's quarterback of the future.
2. ILB K.J. Britt
The Bucs still have the talented duo of Lavonte David and Devin White at the center of their defense and both are likely to play nearly every snap if they remain healthy. However, there is one significant change to the Buccaneers' inside linebacker corps this year – Kevin Minter is no longer around as the unit's ultra-dependable Band-Aid.
Minter spent the past three seasons backing up David at the 'MO' position and White at the 'MIKE,' stepping in as the starter whenever either one was out. His most valuable asset from the coaches' perspective was his experience.
At the moment, there is almost no regular-season experience at the ILB spot behind David and White. The team's two 2021 draft picks, K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard, played 28 and 26 defensive snaps, respectively, as rookies. The other two players on the list are undrafted rookies J.J. Russell and Olakunle Fatukasi. From that foursome, it is expected that Britt, a fifth-round selection out of Auburn, will be the one stepping into the Minter role.
David and White – and David in particular – are not likely to log major minutes in the preseason opener. And with only four other players in the mix, there will be plenty of ILB snaps to go around. Moreover, to fill the Minter role properly, Britt has to be ready to step in at either position at a moment's notice, so it's even possible he'll see time at both spots against the Dolphins. Britt has impressed in his second offseason, beginning back in the spring when he was getting "first-team" reps in the absence of David and White.
"I think it's great for him because he has to learn two positions," said Bowles during the team's June minicamp. "To get some work at 'MIKE' and 'MO' can only help him. I think in OTAs, it's helped him and he lined up with a lot of the starters in OTAs. So, getting a shot at another position, while he knows the 'MIKE', he's getting very good at 'MO'. I think that helps him from a reps standpoint."
Britt is known as a downhill thumper who is strong against the run. The Buccaneers want to find out if he can be reliable in coverage, as well.
3. WR Tyler Johnson
The Buccaneers have an absolutely loaded depth chart at receiver this summer and it seems likely that there won't be enough room on the 53-man roster to keep all of that talent. Players like Tyler Johnson, Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman and Cyril Grayson may all be fighting for just a couple spots.
As such, the preseason games will be crucial for every receiver not named Evans, Godwin, Gage or Jones. Johnson is likely to get plenty of opportunities to show we he should stick around. Start with the fact that Chris Godwin surely won't be playing – he just returned to practice on a very limited basis on Friday – and Mike Evans could be sitting out to if the apparent leg injury he suffered on Friday keeps him out for a bit. Perriman hasn't been practicing this week due to a minor injury and it's unclear whether the Buccaneers plan on giving newcomer Julio Jones many snaps.
In addition, Johnson has been enjoying a very strong camp, drawing praise from the likes of Bowles and Evans, and it seems as if he has earned a long look next Saturday.
"I think we have a great wide receiver room this year," said Evans last week. "Probably the best that I've been around. It's very early to tell, but I like all the young guys. I feel like Tyler Johnson is in tiptop shape, he's looking really good. If I had to choose one guy right now – I know it's only been three days, but Tyler Johnson looks really good."
4. G Luke Goedeke
Rookie Luke Goedeke, a second-round pick out of Central Michigan, came into training camp prepared to battle Aaron Stinnie, primarily, for the starting left guard spot left open by the retired Ali Marpet. Through the first two weeks, though, Goedeke has worked almost exclusively on the second unit, with Stinnie splitting days at first-team left guard with the likes of Nick Leverett and Brandon Walton. On Friday, Bowles explained that he was using players who have been with the team since at least last year to take the first reps so that Goedeke could observe them first before trying to put a new play in himself. Bowles said Goedeke is still in the mix for the starting job.
Given the jump in the level of competition he's facing and the fact that he played right tackle, not guard, at CMU, it was expected that Goedeke would take some time adjusting. Bowles thinks the game is going to start slowing down for the young blocker, allowing his underlying talent and mean-streak attitude to come to the front.
Bowles indicated earlier in the week that, in addition to Brady, a number of other starters would not see any action next Saturday night. That means the Buccaneers could get to their 'twos' on the offensive line quickly and stick with them for a while. It is likely they will want to get a long look at Goedeke, particularly in a situation where he isn't being tasked with keeping Brady upright.
"He's tough," said Bowles. "He's a football guy. He's outstanding in the run game. It's just a matter of picking up the scheme and understanding different protections and seeing the different looks on defense. You're going to get a lot of looks here, so he's going to get a lot of experience quick. But he's very bright, he's driven to be a very good football player because he works at it, and it's just a matter of time before it all calms down for him."
5. P Jake Camarda and K Jose Borregales
Okay, so this is actually a list of six players, not five. Consider it a bonus. These two are simply lumped together because it's possible the Buccaneers will have an entirely new – and very young – pair of kickers in 2022.
The Buccaneers used a fourth-round draft pick on the University of Miami's Jake Camarda and subsequently released incumbent Bradley Pinion in June. A few days into training camp, the Buccaneers also waived punter Sterling Hofrichter, who they had kept on the practice squad for part of the 2021 season. Obviously, the job belongs to Camarda and obviously he will be playing quite a bit against the Dolphins. That doesn't make his Buccaneer debut any less interesting to contemplate.
First and foremost is the punting work. The Buccaneers used a valuable draft asset on the punter position because they liked Camarda's easy leg power but also his hang time and directional control. They will want to see that next Saturday night. In addition, Camarda is expected to handle kickoffs, like Pinion did, and display not only the leg to produce touchbacks at will but also the touch if the team decides to use the "mortar kick" to try to trap the return man deep. Finally, Camarda is first in line to serve as the holder on placekicks. He'll have a lot on his plate.
Jose Borregales, in contrast, does not have a job or a roster spot locked up. He is in a wide-open competition with the team's other kicking incumbent, Ryan Succop. Succop has a great advantage in NFL experience and has been very reliable for the Buccaneers for the past two seasons. Borregales has a powerful leg and probably more potential for deep kicks, which the Bucs were lacking last year. Both have performed very well in training camp practices so far, but Bowles noted before the start of camp that the competition would likely come down to how both kickers performed under the lights in live game action. That makes every kick important for Borregales in the three preseason games.