Bucs got an airful from Kyle Trask in his NFL debut

The former Gators standout made some great throws that weren’t caught and didn’t have much to show for his first game.
Bucs quarterback Kyle Trask throws a pass as offensive tackle Chidi Okeke (68) blocks a Bengals pass rusher during the fourth quarter of Saturday's preseason game at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs quarterback Kyle Trask throws a pass as offensive tackle Chidi Okeke (68) blocks a Bengals pass rusher during the fourth quarter of Saturday's preseason game at Raymond James Stadium. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 15, 2021|Updated Aug. 16, 2021

TAMPA ― Kyle Trask will get more air time in the preseason, but he played like a quarterback who isn’t afraid to take his shots downfield.

After being greeted with the biggest ovation of the night by the crowd Saturday at Raymond James Stadium, the former Gators star completed only 4 of 15 passes for 34 yards in the Bucs’ 19-14 loss to the Bengals.

What those numbers don’t show is that Trask threw two perfect deep balls, neither which was caught. The first went off the hands of Josh Pearson, and the other was dropped by Travis Jonsen.

“Those are plays that I’ve seen those guys make in practice,” Trask said. “... But we’ll get it coached up and hopefully hit it next time.”

Trask said he didn’t enter the game looking to bomb away, but that’s the look the Bengals defense gave him.

“I’ve got no problem launching it if they give it to us,” Trask said. “They did a good job of covering us up on our first few guys on our progression, and I saw Travis. He got past their back safety, and I was trying to air one out and give him a shot.”

Bucs coach Bruce Arians liked the way Trask played, particularly how he got players in and out of the huddle and lined up correctly. By contrast, Ryan Griffin, entering his ninth NFL season, went 6 of 11 for 47 yards with two interceptions.

Statistically, Trask didn’t equal some of the debuts of other rookie quarterbacks around the league. The Jaguars’ Trevor Lawrence (6-of-9, 71 yards, 1 fumble, 2 sacks, 90.5 rating), Patriots’ Mack Jones (13-19, 87 yards, 1 sack, 78.2 rating), Jets’ Zach Wilson (6-9, 63 yards, 86.8 rating), Bears’ Justin Fields (14-20, 142 yards, 1 TD, 106.7 rating, 5 carries, 33 yards, 1 TD, 1 fumble) and 49ers’ Trey Lance (5-14, 128 yards, 1 TD, 4 sacks, 93.7 rating) all fared better in their first game.

Keep in mind that some of those other rookie passers were playing with better receivers, even starters in some cases. In fact, Trask had a better supporting cast at Florida, including tight end Kyle Pitts, who went fourth overall to Atlanta, and receiver Kadarius Toney, who went 20th to the Giants.

With a little help, Arians said Trask could’ve had a big day.

“No doubt, a couple of those deep balls, especially,” Arians said. “The one thing I really like about him is he’s shown it in practice every day: when the rush gets up in his face, there’s no panic. He’s really accurate. I mean, he threw that ball about 60 yards downfield with guys right up in his face. I love where he’s growing every day. The game is not too big for him, and he’s going to be fine.”

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

The speed of the game, albeit against third and fourth-team players, didn’t affect Trask.

“I would say our practice prepared me for that,” Trask said. “It wasn’t anything that caught me off guard once I got out there. We like to practice at a good pace, so we’re very prepared for these situations. I don’t feel like I was ever caught off guard in the moment.”

Backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who replaced Tom Brady and led the Bucs on their only scoring drive, was impressed with Trask’s aggressiveness.

“He took a lot of shots,” Gabbert said. “It’s the first game for everybody, a lot of the young guys are just getting their feet wet. You expect to see improvement from game one to game two to game three — that’s just like every day in practice. It’s just one day at a time with those guys, they’re still learning the system, learning one another, so it’s always a work in progress.”

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.