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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Turnover Avoidance Could Help Kyle Trask, Rachaad White Rise in 2023

QB Kyle Trask and RB Rachaad White, two young Bucs who have an opportunity to carve out much larger roles in 2023, know their number-one mandate from the coaches is to protect the football

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Kyle Trask, a second-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2021, is headed into his third season and a wide-open competition with Baker Mayfield for the starting quarterback job. Rachaad White, a third-round pick by the Buccaneers last year, is headed into his second season and is the clear choice to succeed Leonard Fournette as the team's lead ballcarrier.

The Bucs obviously want to see all of their Day Two draft picks develop into long-term, full-time contributors, and the path to such outcomes for Trask and White is clearer than ever. But neither one will simply be handed a starting job. What they will be given is a very clear ultimatum: You have to take care of the football.

When new Offensive Coordinator Dave Canales was asked about his core offensive tenet at his introductory press conference in March, he joked that he was well prepared for that question because he was fresh off a round of interviews for a new job. And, indeed, he quickly rattled off five tentpole characteristics he would be working to establish in the Bucs' offense. Number one, with a bullet, was avoiding turnovers.

"Number one, it's all about the ball," Canales stressed. "Everything we do with all 11 guys on the offense, it's going to be about protecting the football. Whether it's in the run game, pass game or protection, we are going to be crazy about it."

Canales emphasized this point again with his players during the team's first meeting on Day One of the offseason training program. It's a message that Trask and White have heard loud and clear, not just from their new play-caller but also from Head Coach Todd Bowles.

"We're talking about it right now," said White on Monday. "Coach [Bowles] put great slides up of me actually cupping my wrist in times like that and I'd say, 'Yeah, that's on me.' It's kind of like being young and understanding the game. I embrace it, though – it's part of the game. A lot of people ask me how can I have more poise or just keep moving on to the next play and catch a ball or something like that – but, it's part of the game. Coach Bowles put a lot of emphasis on it and Coach Peete puts a lot of emphasis on it. It's huge – you don't want to give the other team the ball. It's really about technique and understanding the game of football – when not to do too much and when to do too much. As the year went on, I got better at that."

White fumbled three teams as a rookie, with all three recovered by the opposing team. He had none across his last five outings, playoffs included. Three fumbles in a season isn't an outrageously high number, but it came on a total of 179 touches. Tennessee's Derrick Henry led the league's running backs with six fumbles (three lost) but that came on 382 touches. White knows that if his share of the offense is going to expand significantly after the March release of Leonard Fournette, his fumble rate will have to fall, and he's ready to make sure that happens. He's not ready to christen himself the 'RB1' until he earns it amid a backfield group that also includes Ke'Shawn 'Sneak' Vaughn, Chase Edmonds and Patrick Laird.

"For me, it's a blessing to be able to have an opportunity," he said. "For me, I think that's how I go about things – to be 'RB 1.' I wouldn't say I'm 'RB1' yet; we've got a lot of great guys in the room. We're all going to compete. I like the energy, the good vibes in the room right now [with] Chase – meeting him earlier – plus 'Sneak' and Pat. It's a good room. I'm pretty proud of that. But being able to compete and things like that – that's all you can ask for: an opportunity in life."

Trask doesn't have any turnovers on his NFL resume, but that's largely because he's played a total of 10 regular-season snaps to this point. However, he proved adept at protecting the football during his college days at Florida, which helped him emerge as a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2020 and then a Day Two draft pick the following spring.

Trask's final touchdown-to-interception ratio as a Gator was 69-15. As a senior, he threw for 4,283 yards and 43 scores while being picked off only eight times. He noted on Monday that consistency and a narrowed focus on his routine will be two things he will be working on as he tries to win the starting job. If he does end up on the top of the depth chart, he knows he'll have to keep up his turnover-avoiding ways in order to stay there.

"I think to be a successful NFL quarterback, number one has to be about protecting the football, no matter what team you're on," said Trask. "Look at every successful team; I'm sure they don't have a very high turnover ratio. That's obviously been a big emphasis for me personally because one of the number-one rules of football is just protecting it. I'm glad that [Canales] is making that such a big emphasis for us, because it is one of the most important things you can do. Looking back to my college numbers and things like that, I try to do the best job I can of just taking what the defense gives me. I feel like I'm just going to continue to try to do that, and implement that whenever I get my opportunities here."

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