The Miami Dolphins will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Thursday in the preseason opener for both teams. While the starters for either team are not expected to play much - or maybe at all - during this game, the Buccaneers are facing an issue you never want to face as you prepare for the regular season. Tampa Bay starting quarterback Jameis Winston has been suspended for the first three games of the regular season, but he is allowed to practice throughout the summer as well as play in the preseason games; when the regular season starts, the Buccaneers will rely on Ryan Fitzpatrick under center.
So, how do the Buccaneers handle that situation, and what kind of playing time do they give each quarterback during the preseason? Is there a right way to balance keeping Winston primed for the season when he returns while also getting Fitzpatrick repetitions with the rest of the first team?
“Yeah, well there’s no formula written down in the coach’s handbook for that, so we’re trying to get Jameis reps with all three groups,” Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter told reporters last week. “Obviously, we’ve got to give Fitz work. One of the advantages of having a 27-year veteran quarterback is he doesn’t need quite as many reps, so we can still get Jameis some work with the first group. But, Jameis is also getting more reps with the twos and threes. If you just counted them up every day, Jameis is getting the most reps everyday - barely - in camp. Also, we can’t forget about Ryan Griffin. He needs his reps because he’s one play away from being in there.”
James Yarcho from Bucs Nation disagreed with the coach’s assessment of the situation, primarily with how the team looks at Fitzpatrick’s preparation for the season. He wrote, “Though I tend to disagree slightly with Koetter’s assessment that Fitzpatrick doesn’t need as many reps because of how long he’s been in the league, you have to understand that Winston will be without practice for three weeks. Therefore, he needs as many reps as possible now so that he’s ready to go come week four.”
He continued, adding, “As for Fitz, this is a guy that has been a starter but needs as many reps as possible given that he doesn’t usually work with the first team offense. These guys have a limited window in which to build some chemistry and a rapport so that the first three games aren’t a complete bloodbath.”
How the Buccaneers deal with the quarterback situation will be something to watch throughout the summer for Tampa Bay fans. For Dolphins fans coming into Thursday’s game, a game with limited reps for the first team normally, I would expect to see plenty of Ryan Griffin and Austin Allen at quarterback, rather than any extended playing time for either Winston or Fitzpatrick. My guess would be Winston starts and plays one series. Fitzpatrick comes in for the second series, then both players shut it down for the night.