EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback competition appeared to become a bit clearer when Baker Mayfield never left the sideline against the New York Jets.
Well, not so fast.
Kyle Trask started and took most of the snaps in the Buccaneers’ 13-6 preseason victory Saturday night, but coach Todd Bowles declined to declare Mayfield the starter for the season. In fact, the Bucs’ QB competition could continue next Saturday night in Tampa Bay’s preseason finale at home against Baltimore.
“Everybody is going to play,” Bowles said.
Mayfield rested with the rest of the starters — even after Trask was lifted and third-stringer John Wolford was carted off and taken to a hospital with a neck injury — a sign Mayfield might have moved closer to claiming the starting job.
But Bowles said he made “a decision at the last-minute” to not play Mayfield, who was 8 of 9 for 63 yards and one touchdown in Tampa Bay’s preseason opener against Pittsburgh last week.
Trask, listed with Mayfield as the starter on the Buccaneers’ unofficial depth chart, led two scoring drives, including a go-ahead 33-yard toss to rookie Trey Palmer that gave Tampa Bay (1-1) a 10-6 halftime lead.
“We were going to play Baker at the end of the half, but we wanted to see Kyle in the 2-minute period so we kind of left him in,” said Bowles, who beat the team for which he was the head coach from 2015-18.
Trask had to re-enter the game with 1:03 left in the third quarter after Wolford was sacked by Jalyn Holmes and his head appeared to hit the turf with the Jets defensive lineman on top of him. Wolford was strapped to a backboard and lifted onto a cart, and Wolford gave a thumbs off as he was being transported inside the stadium.
The Buccaneers announced Wolford had movement in his extremities and was being evaluated at the hospital. Wolford was 4 of 4 for 57 yards before he was injured.
“He seems to be OK,” Bowles said.
Trask finished 20 of 28 for 218 yards and a TD after facing the Jets’ backups on defense.
“To be honest, I wasn’t planning to bring my helmet out for the second half,” Trask said. “I thought I was done.”
An equipment manager actually told Mayfield to grab Trask’s helmet — just in case. Good thing he did.
“Trask was already warmed up, so when John got hurt we just put him back in to finish it up,” Bowles said.
Zach Wilson started for New York (1-2) and played the first half as he continues to get work in the preseason as the backup to Aaron Rodgers, who likely won’t make his Jets debut until the regular season opener on Sept. 11 against the Buffalo Bills.
Wilson was 9 of 13 for 70 yards, and had a dazzling 35-yard run in his two quarters before being replaced by third-stringer Tim Boyle in the second half.
“He did a nice job,” Saleh said of Wilson.
Greg Zuerlein gave the Jets a 3-0 lead with a 31-yard field goal on the first play of the second quarter.
On New York’s next possession, Bam Knight — fighting for a spot behind Breece Hall and the recently signed Dalvin Cook in the backfield — fumbled when he was hit by J.J. Russell. Anthony Nelson recovered and the Buccaneers capitalized on the turnover with a 35-yarder by Rodrigo Blankenship to tie it.
Wilson threw a 26-yard pass to undrafted rookie Jason Brownlee in the second quarter. On the next play, the Jets quarterback spun out of a potential sack and took off — juking a few would-be tacklers — down the right sideline and stayed inbounds for a long gain that had his teammates fired up and tapping him on the top of the helmet.
Saleh said he would’ve preferred Wilson had run out of bounds rather than take the hit.
“Yeah,” the smiling coach said while knocking the wooden lectern, “but good run.”
The drive stalled from there, though, and New York settled for a 38-yarder from Zuerlein.
The Buccaneers took a 10-6 lead late in the first half on consecutive big plays.
Sean Tucker, an undrafted rookie out of Syracuse, zipped downfield for 27 yards on fourth-and-1 to put Tampa Bay on the Jets 32.
After a timeout by the Buccaneers, Trask reared back and tossed a pass into the end zone for Palmer, a sixth-rounder from Nebraska, who went up and tipped the ball to himself and came down with it for the go-ahead touchdown.
“I gave him a shot,” Trask said, “and he made a fantastic grab.”
Buccaneers: LB K.J. Britt was ruled out late in the first half after injuring a hamstring.
Jets: Rookie RB Israel Abanikanda was carted from the sideline after injuring his right thigh in the fourth quarter. … TE Kenny Yeboah hurt a hamstring. … Rookie OL Joe Tippmann injured a knee.
Buccaneers: Wrap up their preseason schedule by hosting the Baltimore Ravens next Saturday night.
Jets: Renew their annual preseason rivalry by facing the Giants in a “road” game at MetLife Stadium next Saturday night.
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