Bucs to start QB Baker Mayfield Friday, Kyle Trask next week

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' tightly contested quarterback competition will see Baker Mayfield get the start Friday night in the Bucs' preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Coach Todd Bowles announced the move Wednesday, saying Kyle Trask will get the start in preseason Week 2 at the New York Jets.

"[Baker] will start this week, Kyle will start next week, and we'll kind of go from there," said Bowles, who has kept an open competition throughout training camp and won't declare a starter until sometime after the second preseason game. The plan is to get both players equal reps."

When asked whether there was a particular reason the coaching staff chose to go with Mayfield first, Bowles said, "Not really. Just go in and switch them out, have them get their turn."

Mayfield, who was the No. 1 pick in 2018 and led the Cleveland Browns to their first playoff victory in 26 years back in 2020, was the heavy favorite entering training camp.

But Trask, the Bucs' second-round draft pick out of the University of Florida in 2021, has shown significant improvement since the team's mandatory minicamp in June, particularly when it comes to taking care of the football. His posture and poise in the pocket have improved, as has his understanding of new offensive coordinator Dave Canales' system, which Mayfield might have been able to grasp more quickly.

Now that Trask has caught up, his edge might be in his knowledge of Bowles' defense, one he has seen the past two years despite limited reps behind Tom Brady and Blaine Gabbert, making their preseason games and joint practice next week at the Jets a great barometer for each quarterback.

Trask has managed to throw just four interceptions in camp, with three coming on Tuesday, whereas Mayfield has thrown nine, with turnovers being one of the biggest points of emphasis for the coaching staff. After a particularly rough day for both players Tuesday, Wednesday was a turnover-free day. Trask had back-to-back touchdowns to tight end Cade Otton, and Mayfield hit wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Dominique Dafney for touchdowns at the goal line, with what would have been a third touchdown to Dave Wells dropped.

Neither has been particularly consistent on the deep ball. In fact, third-stringer John Wolford has been arguably the most consistent in that department, with a dazzling touchdown of 80-plus yards to Kade Warner in stride Wednesday.

When asked how he'll weigh their performances in practices vs. games, Bowles said, "You don't put one over the other. You put a lot of things -- classroom, on the field, [being a field general,] accuracy, when to get rid of the ball, checking to the right play. There's a lot of things that go into that -- it's more than one thing. You definitely don't want to see turnovers every day."