TAMPA — The Bucs want to use this preseason to find out what they have in Kyle Trask.
Is the former Florida star the heir apparent to Tom Brady or an apparent error in their evaluation that he can develop into a starting NFL quarterback?
With Brady taking at least 10 days off in the preseason and backup Blaine Gabbert retiring Saturday after firing a 23-yard touchdown pass to Jaelon Darden on the Bucs’ second possession, Trask got his chance in a 26-24 preseason-opening loss to the Dolphins at Raymond James Stadium.
The night began — and ended — fairly well for Trask, who finished 25-of-33 for 258 yards, with a touchdown and an interception.
The Bucs lost the game when Jose Borregales’ 49-yard field goal hit the right upright and was no good as time expired. It spoiled a solid drive in the final minutes for Trask, who overcame third-and-21 and fourth-and-12 situations to set up the winning attempt.
“Obviously, it’s bittersweet personally because I thought I made a huge stride in my game play,” Trask said. “Obviously, you want to win the game. But I’m really proud of myself for the amount of growth that I’ve shown, but also I know I have a long ways to go to get to where I want to be. All I can do is keep on striving and keep getting better every single day.”
Entering the game in the second quarter, Trask completed five of his first six passes for 53 yards and led the Bucs on a 15-play, 86-yard touchdown drive. He opened the third quarter going 4-for-4 for 55 yards, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to rookie Jerreth Sterns.
“That’s completely what I said, ‘Oh my gosh! All I have to do is put my pinkies together,’ " Sterns said. “All I did was look up and put my pinkies together. It was a great throw by him.”
But at the end of the first half, the game seemed to speed up on Trask, and his mistakes came rapidly.
Playing behind a patchwork offensive line and operating a two-minute offense, Trask held on to the ball too long with linebacker Porter Gustin striking him as he threw late to Rachaad White. The rookie running back from Arizona State was hit immediately and lost the ball between his legs.
The pass was intercepted by defensive back Elijah Campbell. On the next play, Dolphins rookie quarterback Skylar Thompson connected with Lynn Bowden on a double move for a touchdown.
One play later, Trask was sacked by linebacker Darius Hodge. Trask fumbled, Miami’s Sam Eguavoen recovered it and returned it 32 yards for a touchdown.
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Suddenly, the Bucs were trailing 23-14.
“Especially preseason, sometimes you need to just get the ball out a little quicker,” Trask said. “Obviously, hindsight is 20/20 and you can look back and go with the ball somewhere else a little faster. The interception was a fluky play. Luckily, we still gave ourselves a chance to win at the end, and that’s all we can ask of ourselves.”
A 53-yard field goal by Jason Sanders gave the Dolphins their final lead at 26-24 with 6:53 remaining in the game.
A holding penalty had Trask facing third and 21 at the Tampa Bay 22-yard line with 91 seconds remaining. He hit Kenjon Barner for 9 yards before threading a 20-yard pass to Sterns to put Borregales in field-goal range.
Trask was in complete control.
“Obviously, it’s a two- minute situation at the end of the game,” he said. “We’ve just got to get a chunk. Ideally, we get, like, 10-yard chunks. So I tried to stay calm. That’s all you can do. Stay relaxed.
“So I just tried to keep the guys locked in, and I believe we were able to push the ball down the field and have a chance.”
Tyler Johnson, who led the Bucs with six catches for 73 yards, was impressed with Trask’s poise under pressure.
“He was calm,” Johnson said. “Everybody out there was calm, and we go over those situations pretty much every day in practice, and they were able to trust their training, trust their technique, and went out there and made plays.”
What should Bucs fans make of Trask’s performance?
“He’s learning, learning everything,” Johnson said. “And I think with him being under Brady, you just be a sponge, really. Pretty much every aspect of this game, you get to see bits and pieces of it.”
Contact Rick Stroud at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @NFLSTROUD.
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