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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Kyle Trask, Baker Mayfield Comfortable Heading into "Final Exam" Before Camp

The Buccaneers' three-day minicamp is an opportunity for QBs Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield, who are battling for the starting job, to demonstrate what they've learned throughout the rest of the offseason program


If the first eight weeks of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2023 offseason program were akin to a semester of school curriculum, than the team's mandatory minicamp is exam week.

The Buccaneers kicked off their offseason work on April 17 and, as NFL rules dictate, have gradually ramped up the activity, including three weeks and 10 sessions of OTA practices, which came to an end last Friday. Those 10 practices constituted Phase III and were the most valuable part of the program in terms of installing offensive and defensive schemes, but there were also some useful classroom sessions in the first two phases. One of the primary goals of the whole program is to get all the players familiar with the playbook so that when training camp arrives in late July, everyone can hit the ground running and the competition for certain positions can commence in earnest.

The most important position the Buccaneers will settle in training camp is, of course, starting quarterback. That has been billed as an open competition between Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield, and while Trask has the advantage of two years in Tampa and Mayfield has significantly more NFL experience, both had to start at the beginning in learning the system being installed by new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales. Both quarterbacks expressed a solid level of comfort in the offense after the first minicamp practice on Tuesday, and Trask knows he has to make that evident to the coaching staff.

"I kind of looked at it like a final exam," he said. "We've been studying all throughout OTAs and then you've got three days to put it all together. The first day, we're still working through some things and tightening up some things, but altogether, I think we're really getting all of the concepts down together well and looking pretty solid."

The Buccaneers' offense certainly had its moments on Tuesday, particularly during red zone and third-down drills, though there were a few too many turnovers for everyone's taste. In fact, that was the point that Head Coach Todd Bowles stressed to the team at the end of practice. Both quarterbacks, however, felt at home in Canales's developing system.

"I feel comfortable with where I'm at right now," said Mayfield. "Now, it's about making sure that my comfortability resonates with everyone else. That is the quarterback's job is to make sure everybody gets on the same page and make sure we breathe that confidence throughout the whole team. I feel good with where I am at right now, but there is obviously always room to improve."

Trask, who is seeing the benefit of a lot more snaps and a lot more first-team work after two seasons sitting third on the depth chart behind Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert, echoed Mayfield's thoughts.

"I'm feeling a lot more comfortable every day," he said. "I think just with the reps you get, your brain is getting more wired every single day with the concepts and where your eyes need to be. The progress is coming along little by little every day and I'm feeling very comfortable grabbing the gist of the offense."

Trask drew a distinction between the quarterback room and his place in it of his first two seasons in the league and the one he's in now. When he first arrived as a second-round draft pick in 2021, he joined an offense where almost everyone already knew the playbook in and out. He faced a steep learning curve just to catch up. This season, Trask, Mayfield, third quarterback John Wofford and everyone on offense is starting from the same place as Canales installs his system. The quarterbacks are also learning about Canales as a playmaker and Canales is, in essence, learning on the job, too, in his first opportunity as a coordinator.

To help that process along, the Buccaneers have made a little tweak in their practice schedule, running a few more offensive drills in which the play calls are not scripted ahead of time. This gives a better approximation of what most of an actual game will look like and how Canales will run the show.

"I think we're both getting thrown in the fire going against a Todd Bowles defense for the first time running this system and the first time [Canales] is calling it," said Mayfield. "I think this is great work. We're doing a lot of 'call-it' periods where it is unscripted, and he is having to talk about formations, personnel and different things like that. It's great for everybody to get a feel for how he wants to call it. Then there is also the learning curve and that is what this time of year is all about. I have the utmost confidence in him."

Added Trask: "Not everything is just going to be scripted for offense and defense where you just got out there, put the ball down and run plays. That's not really how you get better in the end. That's good if you want to get stuff on tape, but we're doing a lot of things that really translate to real football – getting the play from the sideline, calling it in the huddle and just going through the entire process."

Final offseason exams will continue on Wednesday and Thursday, but both players vying for the starting quarterback job felt good after the first day of tests. That breeds confidence for when the questions start to get more and more challenging.

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