The Buccaneers opened up training camp Friday afternoon at the AdventHealth Training Center, and the play of veteran backup quarterback Blaine Gabbert was one of the highlights of the day.
On an afternoon where running backs got a lot of work in the passing game — whether by design or on checkdowns — Gabbert impressed with his deep ball. He connected with Breshad Perriman deep down the sideline twice, both within minutes of each other.
Now, by no means does a good day from Gabbert mean anything for starting quarterback Jameis Winston. Winston, by the words of head coach Bruce Arians, was “fantastic” on Friday. Gabbert was just able to come up with some more memorable throws, making him a pretty pleasant surprise on day one.
Of course, the veteran’s play wasn’t necessarily a surprise to Arians, who has worked with him before. After practice, the new Tampa Bay head coach raved about Gabbert.
“I thought Blaine had a heck of a day,” Arians said. “He had some nice deep balls, and he knows the offense. He knows where to get to his checkdowns, he knows when to take his shots.”
“This is his ninth offense, and it’s only the second time he’s ever been in the same one. The guy can really play. It’s a shame that early in his career, he had three offensive coordinators his first three years. But I like the guy. He can really play.”
Gabbert is entering his ninth season in the NFL, playing on his fifth team. He and Arians previously worked together in 2017 when the two were in Arizona. It’s obviously nice for the Bucs to have someone in the quarterback room that has been around the league and been in this offense before.
Gabbert’s strong showing on Friday afternoon was an interesting development for Tampa Bay’s quarterback room in general. When Arians came on as the Bucs’ new head coach in January, he talked about running two different practices at the same time to get every guy significant reps.
With split practices, there will always be some interesting takeaways, as was the case Friday. During 11-on-11 drills and later in 7-on-7s, both Winston and Gabbert were split off with the starting offense. Ryan Griffin was on the other side with the second group.
That’s notable, considering it seemed like Gabbert and Griffin were set to battle for the backup job. Griffin re-signed back in March before Gabbert got a deal of his own. On Friday, it was Gabbert getting to work with the starting group alongside Winston. That might not mean he already has the backup job, but it’s still an intriguing development.
It won’t be a shock at all if Gabbert ends up No. 2 on the depth chart. He knows the offense and he’s played in 56 games in his career, with 48 starts. Griffin, though he has been around Tampa Bay since 2015, has yet to take a snap in an NFL game.
Gabbert already had the edge coming into training camp. With the way he practiced on Friday, he probably extended that lead.