So much focus this season, and for many more, will be on how No. 1 overall pick Jameis Winston plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The players around Winston won’t be under as much scrutiny but they’re obviously instrumental in his development.
When the Buccaneers’ offensive line gave Winston time against the Cincinnati Bengals, as it did for most of Tampa Bay’s first two drives, Winston got to show off his skills. He moved the team easily on the first drive of the game, making a few really nice passes, and he scored a rushing touchdown. The running game, led by Doug Martin, was big on that drive too. Finding a running game is also very important for Winston as a rookie, so the entire offense doesn’t fall on his shoulders. Martin looked much better than he has the last two years, when he appeared to be running in quicksand.
Other times on Monday night the Buccaneers’ offensive line, which was horrible last season, let the Bengals right through with no resistance. Early in the second quarter rookie guard Ali Marpet barely slowed down Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins after the snap, and Atkins and end Wallace Gilberry met at the quarterback for a sack. Winston turned his ankle on that play, was clearly limping, but stayed in the game. Two plays later the Buccaneers didn’t pick up the blitz, Winston fell down when he saw the safety bearing down on him and threw the ball into the ground. He was called for intentional grounding.
The Buccaneers yanked Winston after that, less than halfway through the second quarter, although ESPN said on the broadcast that the plan was for him to play the entire first half. Lovie Smith saw that his quarterback wasn’t able to protect himself behind a makeshift line and pulled him, even though it didn’t seem like the ankle injury was too serious. Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden could take a lesson.
It all has to work together for Winston to be successful early in his career. The Buccaneers can’t let the opposing defensive line tee off on Winston, which was too often the case when Josh McCown was Tampa Bay’s quarterback last year. Martin (or backup tailback Charles Sims, or someone) has to look like he did on Monday night, when he had 59 yards on six carries on Winston’s drives. The defense has to keep pressure off the offense, and the Buccaneers’ defense played really well on Monday night. The Bengals had 33 yards, no points and two turnovers when Winston was pulled early in the second quarter.
When Winston got help, it was easy to see why he was the first overall pick. Winston was 8-of-13 for 90 yards. He threw the ball very well, showing off his very strong arm many times. He was patient too, checking down when that was the best option. In the second quarter he made a nice 22-yard pass on a seam route to Russell Shepard, coming off his primary read and sticking the throw. That’s great to see from a rookie.
Winston’s performance in his second preseason game was very promising. But the way it ended, with him hobbling around after being sacked and the Buccaneers putting in Mike Glennon before Winston could take any more punishment, wasn’t so good. It was a reminder: Winston will get the credit or the blame, but he needs the 10 guys with him to play well before he has any success.
– – – – – – –