Bucs have more than one question mark

by Gary Shelton on August 18, 2023

in general

Is White mentally ready?/TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

They are in the middle of training camp, and the season is rushing toward them harder than they are rushing toward it.

And still, there is but one story with the Tampa Bay Bucs.

It’s the quarterback, and who is worse.

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Nothing else seems to matter, not Mike Evans’ continued excellence nor Shaq Barrett’s nor the anemic running game nor the rebuilt offensive line nor Russell Gage’s injury nor the new man in charge of coordinating the offense. In the media centers across the country, the smart guys meet and discuss stories. When they get to the Bucs, they simply say this: “Why don’t we make fun of Baker Mayfield a little more?”

Oh, it doesn’t matter that the Bucs couldn’t afford a better quarterback to replace Tom Brady, and it doesn’t matter that Mayfield was pretty good in his brief time in last week’s preseason opener. Mayfield went over his allotment of football teams last year, and therefore, he is to be scoffed at. If there is any room left over, well, you can always make fun of Kyle Trask, the other alternative.

But as the Bucs prepare to enter their second game of the preseason (they sort of paid attention to their first game last week), questions  still linger.

Questions such as:

— Will this team ever be able to run the ball? Last week, Rashaad White didn’t play, which didn’t lend a lot of hope. The Rays were criminally bad at running the ball last season. Against Pittsburgh a week ago, they couldn’t run it in short yardage situations to save their lives, which is an indictment of the offensive line. Sum it up this way: Tom Brady couldn’t overcome an invisible running game; Mayfield certainly won’t be able to.

— Speaking of the offensive line, is there any hope? A good offensive line is cohesive. This one doesn’t figure to be. There are too many moving parts, and the opponent defensive lines are going to make the ground moist with drool.

— Is the pass rush simply a theory? The Bucs didn’t get a lot of heat on opposing quarterbacks last year. This year, they’re hoping that Barrett heals and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka finally shows up. 

— Is this team well-coached enough for discipline? It was silly to see the Bucs penalized repeatedly last week. I’ve always thought that managing penalties was a factor in coaching. I still do. 

— Is the secondary as good as  everyone thinks? It was hard to tell with backups playing last week, but  Steelers’ starter Kenny Pickett hit six of his seven passes. That’s not good enough.

—Now there is competition for a third wide receiver to replace Gage.  Is that Trey Palmer? Kaylon Geiger? Someone not yet on the roster?

— Does Devin White care yet?

— Do the Bucs care yet? Again, there are a lot of questions to answer on this team, but the Bucs don’t seem in a hurry to answer them. They held out almost every important player last week. Which brings up the question again: Is preseason about getting ready or is it about deciding the final five spots on a roster?

The Bucs visit the Jets Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

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