Posted on: August 17, 2023, 08:50h.
Last updated on: August 17, 2023, 08:50h.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fear that veteran wide receiver Russell Gage is out for the season after sustaining a knee injury during practice on Wednesday.
The Bucs and New York Jets participated in a joint practice, and Gage suffered a non-contact knee injury while backpedaling during a 7-on-7 drill. Beat reporters noted that Gage was crying while he was carted off the practice field.
It was a pretty serious injury,” said Bucs head coach Todd Bowles. “We wish Russ the best. I can tell by the way he was sitting on the truck that it's probably something that happened pretty bad. Our hearts go out to him.”
Gage also needed assistance off the field during a playoff game last January when he suffered a concussion and neck injury during Wild Card Weekend. If the Bucs had defeated the Dallas Cowboys, Gage probably would've been out for the duration of the postseason.
Gage recovered from the concussion and neck injury in the offseason, and he expected to start this upcoming season.
Bucs WR Corps: Stellar 1-2 Punch, But Thin Bench
Tom Brady and the Bucs had one of the top receiving triads in 2022 with Gage, Mike Evans, and Chris Godwin. The trio returned this season, but their bench was a little thin with inexperienced wideouts.
In 13 games last season, Gage caught 51 passes for 426 yards and five touchdowns. He was second overall on the Bucs in receiving touchdowns despite missing four games.
After battling injuries last season, Gage took a 30% pay cut this season to remain with the Bucs.
Evans and Godwin both caught at least 1,000 receiving yards in 2022, and the tandem combined for nine touchdowns. Brady liked to check down in the passing game, and running back Leonard Fournette added 73 receptions and three touchdowns last season. Fournette bounced in free agency, and whomever replaces Brady will no longer have Fournette as a safety valve.
David Moore signed with the Bucs in the offseason. The veteran caught 13 touchdowns in three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, and he's most likely the next man up in the rotation.
Deven Thompkins suited up in five games last season with the Bucs, but only caught five passes. Thomkins plays on special teams as a kick returner, so he's expected to secure a roster spot.
The Bucs also have three inexperienced wide receivers in training camp. Rookies Trey Palmer and Rakim Jarrett are fighting for a spot. Palmer is a sixth-round draft pick out of Nebraska and he could join the special teams as a kick returner. Jarrett went undrafted out of Maryland, and the Bucs also have Kaylon Geiger from Texas Tech on the roster.
Bucs QB Battle: Mayfield or Trask
Kyle Trask and Baker Mayfield are fighting for the starting QB job. Bowles has yet to name a starting quarterback to replace Brady after he finally retired in the offseason.
The Bucs selected Trask with a second-round pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, but the former Florida quarterback did not see any playing time with Brady on the team. Trask looked good at the start of training camp, but struggled in the first preseason game against the Pittsburgh Steelers. He only completed 60% of his passes and tossed one interception.
Mayfield outplayed Trask so far and has the inside track to start in Week 1. He completed 80% of his passes with one touchdown and zero interceptions against the Steelers.
Mayfield is looking to revitalize his career in Tampa Bay, and doesn't mind that he has to compete with Trask for the starting position.
When the quarterback room is having success, it shows what this offense can be capable of,” said Mayfield. “We're distributors within this system, and people are starting to see what we're going to be capable of. It's just slowly coming together.”
Mayfield, the former #1 pick and Heisman Trophy winner, had underwhelming career with the Cleveland Browns. The Browns traded Mayfield to the Carolina Panthers last offseason after they went all-in on Deshaun Watson.
The Panthers cut Mayfield in December, and he latched on with the Los Angeles Rams late in the season after Matthew Stafford missed time with an injury. Mayfield had been with the Rams for only a couple of days before he led them to a stunning comeback victory against the Las Vegas Raiders on Thursday Night Football. The impromptu performance proved to many scouts and haters that Mayfield could still remain in the NFL.
Betting the Post-Brady Bucs
The NFC South was considered the weakest division in the NFL last season. The Bucs barely won the division with an 8-9 record. They advanced to the playoffs as a division winner despite a losing record, but were knocked out in the first round.
The NFC South is wide open now that Brady retired and enjoying life as a minority owner of the Las Vegas Raiders. The New Orleans Saints are the betting favorite to win the NFC south at +120 odds, followed by the Atlanta Falcons (+215), Carolina Panthers (+450), and Bucs (+800).
The Saints signed veteran quarterback Derek Carr, but they face depth issues at running back due to multiple injuries and Alvin Kamara's suspension.
The Falcons are in rebuilding mode with second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder at the helm.
The Panthers have a new coach with Frank Reich, and they made an aggressive trade with the Chicago Bears to move up in the 2023 NFL Draft. With the #1 pick, the Panthers selected quarterback Bryce Young from Alabama.
Oddsmakers installed the Bucs with a win total of 6.5 over/under, and they're the lowest in their division. The Saints have the highest projected win total at 9.5 o/u, followed by the Falcons at 8.5 o/u, and the Panthers at 7.5 o/u.
The Bucs are +400 odds to make the playoffs, according to a postseason prop bet by DraftKings. They're a favorite at -500 odds to miss the playoffs.
The Bucs are near the bottom of the NFL futures board at +9000 odds to win Super Bowl LVIII, and +4500 odds to win the NFC Championship.
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