TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers opened 2021 NFL training camp Sunday at AdventHealth Training Center. Here's a closer look at a few storylines:
How is Tom Brady's surgically repaired knee progressing? Will he have any limitations in camp?
Brady showed no signs of injury during the Bucs’ three-day mandatory minicamp and participated in everything except blitz periods, as coach Bruce Arians didn’t want an overzealous defender turning the corner and inadvertently bumping into him. But teammates have said they don’t even notice the injury.
“It’s a little weird because you hear about it in the media and stuff like that, but as far as day-to-day, any time we’re throwing with him it doesn’t feel like a thing that he recently had like an operation or whatever,” wide receiver Chris Godwin said. “We don’t think about it. If we see him out there then he’s physically able to go and he does a really good job, which is being a professional coming ready to bring his A-game.”
He’s still wearing the knee sleeve, his footwork still looks pristine and he’s still taking a ton of reps. We’ll know he’s fully healed though when he stays in for blitz periods and is throwing a bit more on the move.
Both Arians and offensive coordinator Clyde Christensen likened Trask’s mental acumen to that of Andrew Luck, whom they both worked with in Indianapolis, while Arians compared his physical abilities to former Super Bowl winning-QB Brad Johnson, who wasn’t known much for arm strength or letting it rip downfield, but rather methodically carving up defenses underneath and good decision-making.
“He’s a really deliberate learner,” Christensen said of Trask. “He takes it nice and slow, he tries to get the details of the thing, and then once he gets it, he gets it. He's not one of those guys who looks at it once and he's got it. He's going to mull over it, he's going to call most nights with some questions -- 'Hey, what do you think on this, what do you think on that?'”
Trask didn’t look out of place or like he was in over his head during minicamps or OTAs. During mandatory minicamp, Trask worked with the third- and fourth-string units on an adjacent practice field to Brady and Gabbert. (Arians always runs two simultaneous practices to ensure everyone gets ample reps.) Trask was nearly picked off a few times on late throws, but they haven’t taken it easy on him, showing a lot of blitzes and disguised coverages.
The feeling is he needs reps and will likely be the third-string quarterback this year, with Gabbert being the No. 2, but he could possibly push for the second-string job in 2022. With Brady under contract for two more years, they’re fine with a more patient approach.
How is O.J. Howard recovering from his ruptured Achilles that ended his 2020 season after four games?
Howard didn’t participate in mandatory minicamp and hasn’t been cleared to return to full participation, but he was on the field at one point tossing the ball back and forth with Brady. He’s running and he’s pushing the weights, even on lower body exercises and his flexibility is returning, which is a great sign after being in a boot through the end of 2020. Arians said they’ll be taking a cautious approach with him, but physically he looks fantastic. He’ll either be cleared at the beginning of training camp or shortly after, barring any setbacks.
Tryon missed rookie minicamp and OTAs but was cleared to participate in mandatory minicamp. You really don’t appreciate his length until he stands next to 6-foot-7 outside linebacker Anthony Nelson. Nelson is two inches taller and nine pounds heavier on paper, but Tryon looks far more physically imposing and both have long 34-inch arms.
You could really see Tryon’s athleticism during ball drills with outside linebackers coach Larry Foote -- the rookie catches the ball with ease and his suddenness and stop-and-go ability should lend itself well when coordinator Todd Bowles asks defenders to drop into coverage, something Nelson doesn’t look as natural at doing. That can be limiting for a defensive playcaller that loves zone blitzes, whereas Tryon dropped into coverage on 88 snaps at the University of Washington over the last two years.
Tryon will make his impact first on special teams – an area the Bucs have vowed to improve for 2021 -- but he should be able to step into the third rotational outside linebacker spot by the end of preseason ahead of Nelson, assuming he continues to develop as a pass-r3usher. His versatility -- he lined up at left and right defensive end and left and right and left outside linebacker, even playing over 100 snaps as a defensive tackle and a few snaps at inside linebacker at UW -- should allow Bowles to incorporate him into multiple sub-packages.
What’s his ceiling as long as starters Barrett and Pierre-Paul are still in the picture? A fair way to look at this could be when Pierre-Paul returned from a neck fracture in 2019. From that point on, previous starter Carl Nassib took on more of a rotational role (he also missed two games with an injury), playing 261 defensive snaps in that span compared to JPP’s 556 and Barrett’s 501. Nassib was still able to generate 4.0 sacks in that period, so Tryon can still do some damage.