The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2021 season is officially underway. With one preseason game under their belt, the veterans are getting back to game speed and knocking off some rust. For the rookies, they have just had their first taste of the NFL experience. To measure the progress, of the rookies especially, we turn to the stat line. Here are three stat lines to take note of from the first action of the season.
The Buccaneers have three quarterbacks on the roster behind Tom Brady. Of the three, two are fighting for the backup role and the third is Kyle Trask. The anticipated game plan is that Trask is the third quarterback and possibly heir apparent to Brady. This week he saw his first action under center against an opponent.
Entering midway through the third quarter the second-rounder came in after the second Ryan Griffin interception. Trask completed 4-of-15 passing attempts for just 35 yards. That equates to 2.3 yards a reception, which is hardly impressive by any means. He placed shots deep, in the intermediate range, and short. The ones he did complete were in tight windows with some zip and a smart check down to a running back.
A would-be touchdown with 11:10 left in the fourth showed some promise. With the pocket collapsing Trask scrambled to his right avoiding pressure. While still in the pocket he drops a high arching pass with some touch out of the reach of two defenders to Codey McElroy. Unfortunately, it was called back for a flag.
Overall, Trask showed guts in the pocket and some accuracy. He made reads and pushed through his progressions at times. Additionally, it should be noted Trask was out there with guys fighting to make the roster. Players whose talent level plays into the underlying theme of the stat line. This game is not a reason to jump ship on Trask, improvement will come.
In the NFL a positive turnover differential leads to wins. The ability to end an opponent’s drive can be a momentum-changing event that swings things in a team’s favor. In this case, the Buccaneers defense walked away with two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
Both forced fumbles were a direct result of gang tackling and a defensive mentality of finishing the play; something Buccaneers fans got accustomed to last season and will surely get more of this year. The two interceptions came at the hands of Javon Hagan and Joe Jones. Both players are looking to make the final roster and add depth to the secondary/linebacker room.
Hagan’s interception was an amazing leaping, one-handed snatch right out of the air. If he had not fumbled afterward, the play would have been another amazing defensive turnover. Additionally, Hagan added five solo tackles with three going for a loss. Toss in a pass deflection and he is making a case to stay on this roster.
The defense can be something even more special in 2021 than 2020.
Not talked about as much as a stat but one that can be used to skew numbers. The number of games played, started, and the number of snaps gets lost in the shuffle of other statistics. I contend this is very overlooked. For the Buccaneers, this stat is one to watch with O.J. Howard.
Having never played a full season and coming off an Achilles injury, Howard returned to action for the first time. On his only target, Howard hauled in a 15-yard catch over the center while dragging a defender for about four yards.
This is important because Howard will allow for an addition to the playbook and another weapon the Buccaneers didn’t have last season. If healthy that dynamic makes the offense have more depth in play-calling making it that more differentiated from last season. Thus, complicating defensive coordinators’ efforts to plan against the Buccaneers. So, let’s hope he stays healthy.
It’s only preseason. Reading the tea leaves now, especially after one game, is hard to do. What the Buccaneers did do, however, was start the baseline for expectations. Subsequently, the rest of the preseason will be telling. Stay tuned Buccaneers fans!