The Buccaneers have played their first preseason game, falling to the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 in a contest that featured some good, but certainly some bad as well. Let’s get into which players stocks have risen and those who may have fallen.
QB Baker Mayfield
Mayfield took the field with the “starters” even though there weren’t many of the Bucs top stars out there but Mayfield still impressed. In his first action in a Bucs uniform, Mayfield went 8/9 for 63 yards and one touchdown pass. The most important thing though may have been the zero interceptions on his stat line. Turnovers have been an issue for the veteran quarterback in camp, so it was a good sign to see him play a clean game.
The quarterback competition isn’t over, but it is clear that Mayfield has the strong lead at the moment. Time and production will tell if he can keep it.
WR Trey Palmer
Bucs rookie Trey Palmer has had a productive camp, but did not make many splash plays. That changed on Friday night as he hauled in a beautiful pass from Mayfield and made a spectacular catch in the back of the endzone for the touchdown. The sixth round pick also had three other catches as he totaled four catches for 33 yards and a score.
Performances like this sure do help Palmer’s case to stick on the roster as wide receiver depth for Tampa Bay. He and Mayfield appear to have a pretty nice connection and that is something I’m sure the Bucs wouldn’t mind seeing more of.
RB Sean Tucker
At first glance, Tucker’s stat line is not all that impressive. Six carries for 10 yards and one catch for three yards, but the box score does not tell the whole story. Tucker had an impressive touchdown run called back due to a hold and was able to show that explosiveness and power that so many Bucs fans have heard since he was signed as an undrafted free agent. Forget the box score, Tucker’s first impression with Tampa Bay was a positive one, so his stock is up.
QB Kyle Trask
Now let me start by sayin his stock falling is not all on Trask. The offensive line really struggled during Trask’s time in the game and when a quarterback doesn’t have time, they usually don’t stand a chance. However, Trask was riding some positive momentum heading into this game and it seems like a lot of that momentum was halted pretty quickly on Friday night.
Trask made some nice throws, but he also threw an interception, the only Bucs QB to do so during this game. He went 6/10 for 99 yards and one interception. He also had the lowest quarterback rating of all three signal callers that played with a grade of 53.8. Combine Mayfield’s success with Trask’s struggles and the QB1 picture for Tampa Bay is starting to get a lot clearer.
RT Luke Goedeke
2022 second round pick Luke Goedeke is coming into the 2023 campaign with a huge opportunity as he is slated to be the team’s starting right tackle this season. Goedeke played guard for the Bucs last season and struggled, being replaced in the lineup by Nick Leverett after going down with an injury. So far the early returns on the right tackle experiment are not great.
Right tackle was Goedeke’s natural position in college so there was a thought that he could transition well to it in the NFL but his game against Pittsburgh was ugly. He started off the game fine, not allowing a sack while Baker Mayfield was in but struggled later on while Trask was behind center. I doubt the Buccaneers have any plans to replace Goedeke with a veteran so hopefully he snaps out of it or else the right side of the Bucs offensive line could be scary and not in a good way.
Bucs Secondary Depth
Throughout the offseason and camp, I have been very concerned with the lack of experienced depth the Buccaneers have in their secondary. Behind starters Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Antoine Winfield Jr and Ryan Neal are a lot of unproven, young players. Having those types of players is fine for depth, but it also comes with a lot of risk and like the Goedeke experiment, the early returns on the Bucs young secondary was not great.
Zyon McCollum had a nice interception, but followed that up with taking a terrible angle on a run play that resulted in a touchdown. Keenan Isaac struggled throughout the night, Derek Pitts Jr got beat deep for a 67 yard touchdown and Nolan Turner got faked out of his shoes by George Pickens which allowed Pickens to score. These are guys that the Buccaneers could be relying on this season if players in the secondary go down and they just simply have not been good enough.
Wouldn’t shock me if Tampa Bay is looking for a veteran presence in the secondary after teams make their cuts in a few weeks.
As always, a player’s stock could go up or down based on performance and there will be many times throughout a football season that a player goes through highs and lows. Some Bucs players should be feeling pretty good about how they played, others not so much.