Has Bucs QB competition gotten tighter? ‘Absolutely,’ Dave Canales says

The new offensive coordinator suggests Kyle Trask has closed the gap on Baker Mayfield.
First-year Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales said the competition for the starting quarterback job "absolutely" has tightened between Baker Mayfield, left, and Kyle Trask.
First-year Bucs offensive coordinator Dave Canales said the competition for the starting quarterback job "absolutely" has tightened between Baker Mayfield, left, and Kyle Trask. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published Aug. 1, 2023|Updated Aug. 2, 2023

TAMPA — While a legion of Bucs fans believe the quarterback job is Baker Mayfield’s to lose, Dave Canales remains adamant a derby is in progress at the position.

What’s more, Kyle Trask is pulling up alongside his more experienced peer, the first-year offensive coordinator suggested.

Asked during a Tuesday afternoon news conference whether the team’s quarterback competition has tightened since the start of training camp, Canales responded, “Oh yeah, absolutely.” He also seemed to validate what many have observed and noted in recent practices — that Trask might be playing the best football of his still-fledgling pro career.

“First couple of days, I think the experience that Baker brings — just playing in games, being in camps, going through installs — you could see where the offense was jelling really well,” Canales said before Tuesday evening’s practice at AdventHealth Training Center. “The timing of the snaps and all that is really critical for us, so probably a little bit of an edge for Baker to start off, just in terms of the smoothness of the offense.

“But it just took a couple of days for Kyle to really settle in, and then what we saw is, the last two practices Kyle really showed what he can do: stretching the field with his arm, getting the ball out quickly, making decisions. So I’m really excited about both of those guys and the progression that they’ve made throughout the last couple of days.”

Through the initial six practices of camp, Trask (one NFL appearance in two season) and Mayfield (71 starts in five seasons) have alternated days working primarily with the first-team offense. Trask worked with the starting unit at Tuesday night’s indoor workout, recording his third consecutive turnover-free practice.

Mayfield, meantime, was intercepted once (by rookie corner back Keenan Isaac), but had the night’s biggest offensive play with a bomb of roughly 50 yards (from the shadow of his end zone) to tightly covered second-year receiver Deven Thompkins.

“Their No. 1 responsibility is don’t turn the ball over,” coach Todd Bowles said after Tuesday’s practice. “And (Trask) has been doing a good job of not turning it over.”

While some have criticized the rotation for depriving the eventual starter of coveted first-team reps, Canales and Bowles remain content to take things day by day for now, though Bowles has said he has a deadline in mind for announcing a starter.

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Both are expected to start at least one preseason contest; Bowles said the staff has made no pre-set plan for the third and final preseason game.

“I think we were in the spring right in this (media) room talking about ... the pros and cons of just naming a starter for the comfortability, or playing this thing out,” Canales said.

“I think what we’re seeing is, we’re seeing a couple of guys who both have to put themselves in that starter mind frame going into the practices knowing, ‘Hey, today’s my day. I get to run with the (starters). I get maybe a few more reps.’ It’s pretty much even, even when we go ones and twos, the way we do it. But I see the two guys really challenging each other.”

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