Dolphins vs. Buccaneers Preseason Notebook: Kyle Trask, future QB1? Plus Mike Gesicki intrigue and more

Tom Brady is expected back to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a week or so. But as he showed against the Miami Dolphins, Kyle Trask deserves more reps.

Tom Brady is currently MIA, but he’s not AWOL, and the Buccaneers expect him back for the start of 2022. But what about 2023? Very much up in the air. So Saturday night’s Tampa Buccaneers vs. Miami Dolphins preseason game helped fill in the evaluation of Kyle Trask — the guy who might someday replace the GOAT.

While Blaine Gabbert started for the Buccaneers and acquitted himself quite well (5 of 5 for 56 yards and a touchdown in two series), no one actually thinks he’s the team’s future.

But with Trask, there’s still hope he just might be. We break down his big chance to change minds, plus much, much more.

Buccaneers QB Kyle Trask balls out

Brady’s decision to take a mid-camp hiatus from football — an unthinkable proposition at any point in his career — allows Trask to get a bunch more practice and game reps than he otherwise would.

He made the most of those reps Saturday, nearly leading Tampa to a come-from-behind victory with a late flourish. On Tampa’s final drive, Trask picked up a fourth-and-12 and a third-and-8 to set up a 49-yard Jose Borregalas field goal attempt at the gun that hit the right upright.

Trask, who completed 25 of 33 passes for 258 yards and a touchdown, is big, strong, and decisive in the pocket — when the pocket holds up. Trask’s effortless ability to push the ball downfield was obvious when he found tight end J.J. Howland deep down the seam, connecting for a 29-yard completion in the third quarter.

Trask throws more than fastballs, though. His touch was impressive a few plays later when he dropped a 19-yard touchdown pass into the bucket, connecting with Jerreth Sterns, who had a defensive back on his hip the whole route.

So when things were good, Trask was really good. But when protection broke down, he made some costly mistakes. An eight-point second-quarter Buccaneers lead flipped to a six-point deficit in a heartbeat. Trask turnovers were the cause, and both were the result of pressure.

First, he forced a pass to Rachaad White that resulted in a bizarre interception by Elijah Campbell (who came down with it between his legs). And then he didn’t feel the blindside rush from Darius Hodge, who forced a fumble that Sam Eguavoen scooped up and took to the house. And with the Buccaneers down two late in regulation, Trask ate the ball on third-and-3, resulting in a drive-ending sack.

But on balance, it was a good night for Trask, who was pretty uninspiring during his rookie preseason (52.7%, 6.7 yards per attempt, 60.6 passer rating).

The long, long list of Dolphins-Buccaneers scratches

Give Buccaneers fans credit. They want to see their team play, even if they didn’t know 95% of the names on the field.

A half-hour prior to kickoff, the cheapest get-in on StubHub was $70. That’s stunning, considering that each team had by then announced the many big names who wouldn’t play.

Ninety minutes prior to kickoff, the Dolphins announced the following players would not dress: QB Tua Tagovailoa; RB Chase Edmonds; LB Melvin Ingram; S Jevon Holland; WR Tyreek Hill; WR Jaylen Waddle; CB Xavien Howard; FB Alec Ingold; RB Raheem Mostert; LB Elandon Roberts; LB Jerome Baker; OL Connor Williams; T Terron Armstead; TE Adam Shaheen; DE Emmanuel Ogbah; DT Zach Sieler; and DT Christian Wilkins.

That list included 13 of the team’s 22 projected starters, per Miami’s initial depth chart. CB Kader Kohou; LT Greg Little; FB John Lovett; and DB Sheldrick Redwine weren’t on the released list but also did not play. And QB Teddy Bridgewater technically was available, but third-stringer Skylar Thompson started and went the distance.

Yet compared to the Buccaneers, the Dolphins put together a lineup of All-Pros. Before the game, Tampa ruled out roughly a third of the team’s 90-man roster. Both Brady and Mike Evans sitting out was to be expected. But Todd Bowles added another 27 names to the list. Want them all? Here ya go …

Buccaneers scratches: Brady; Evans; RB Leonard Fournette; TE Kyle Rudolph; OLB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka; WR Chris Godwin; WR Russell Gage Jr.; S Keanu Neal; CB Sean Murphy-Bunting; CB Carlton Davis III; S Logan Ryan; S Antoine Winfield Jr.; S Mike Edwards; CB Jamel Dean; LB Devin White; NT Vita Vea; LB Lavonte David; DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches; OLB Shaquil Barrett; G Sadarius Hutcherson; C Ryan Jensen; G Shaq Mason; T Josh Wells; T Donovan Smith; T Tristan Wirfs; TE Cameron Brate; WR Julio Jones; DL William Gholston; and DL Akiem Hicks.

That means just two projected starters even dressed: left guard Aaron Stinnie and center Robert Hainsey.

Mike Gesicki intrigue continues

Noticeably missing from that long list of Dolphins who got the night off? Tight end Mike Gesicki, who was by far the highest-paid Dolphins player (at $10.9 million) to see the field Saturday night.

And Mike McDaniel was determined to use him, dialing up a play-action pass from Thompson to Gesicki on the game’s first play. Gesicki appeared in the Dolphins’ first two offensive series before calling it a night.

It was just the latest strange twist of Gesicki’s unique 2022 experience. He is playing under the franchise tag — which no player prefers — and has been the team’s third, if not fourth, passing option through camp. And yet he hasn’t made waves.

“It is not an easy job to play tight end in this offense,” Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel explained after the game. “We thought it would benefit him to get him in a little bit. … We wanted to get him a touch and get him [involved] and hearing the offense. I was happy with the way he played and how he approached it because it wasn’t punishment at all.”

More Dolphins, Buccaneers observations

  • A terrible finish to the game for the Dolphins, who might not have promising young defensive back Trill Williams for the start of the season — if at all in 2022. He got hurt in the final moments of regulation and was carted to the locker room, in tears, with an apparent left knee injury. Among the Buccaneers players who left the game due to injury and did not return: RB Giovani Bernard and OLB Cam Gill. Dolphins defensive lineman Jordan Williams also limped off the field late in regulation after suffering a lower-body injury.
  • Tagovailoa got the night off but participated in an in-game interview with CBS-4, the Dolphins’ preseason broadcast team. Tagovailoa, asked about his comfort level with McDaniel’s system, said, “there’s no comfort level yet. There’s always nuances to Mike’s offense. I can say that we are getting comfortable with timing, route distribution with guys on the field, and our communication I think has been a lot better as we’re moving deeper into training camp.”
  • A couple of wide receivers hoping to make their respective teams who needed to show up did so in a big way Saturday — Tyler Johnson for the Buccaneers and Lynn Bowden for the Dolphins. Johnson caught six passes for 73 yards, while Bowden had a touchdown and 55 yards on three receptions.
  • Dolphins kicker Jason Sanders appears to be back on track after a disappointing 2021 season. Sanders boomed through field goal attempts of 33, 52, and 23 yards in the first half.
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