Bucs’ Winston sizzles in preseason win over Titans

by Gary Shelton on August 19, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston hot, but he'll still sit for three weeks./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston hot, but he'll still sit for three weeks./CARMEN MANDATO

Sunday, 4 a.m.

This, the Tampa Bay Bucs will miss.

This type of play, when the quarterback is precise and dangerous and creative, when he leads his team downfield like he's leading a parade, will  make the Bucs wince to be without him. It will make his teammates -- at least privately -- look forlornly in the direction of Jameis Winston and regret the night he chose to hire an Uber. This will make his coaches question the deal that Winston struck with the NFL.

This type of play would give hope to the fans of the Bucs.

If only Winston was going to be around.

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The Bucs finally found Jackson deep./CARMEN MANDATO

The Bucs finally found Jackson deep./CARMEN MANDATO

That's how good Winston was in a 30-14 win over Tennessee Saturday night. He was good enough to make you miss him already. He was the sharp, big-armed quarterback the Bucs have waited for. He was the best player on the field, not a bad accomplishment since former rival Marcus Mariota was there, too.

In one quarter, Winston hit 13 of 18 passes for 226 yards. He threw for two touchdowns, and he hit four passes of 20 yards or more.

Evans  was open for a 38-yard catch,/JEFFREY S. KING

Evans was open for a 38-yard catch,/JEFFREY S. KING

Yeah, you might have thought. This kind of performance would give the Bucs a shot at New Orleans, at Pittsburgh, maybe even at Philadelphia in the first three weeks.

Alas, those are the three games where Winston will be a spectator, serving his suspension from the NFL. That's the way things work. The closer we get to the season, the more you realize how much you will miss Winston.

"Shoot, I thought he played really well," Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said. "It (the suspension) is what it is. We're over that. We've got to move forward.

"He’s really throwing accurately and putting the ball on the money. When he gets protection, he’s an accurate passer. He has to fight the urge to not try to do too much. If he just takes what they give him, and makes the plays he should make, he’s doing a good job."

The Bucs, now 2-0 in the preseason, had a fairly productive night against the Titans, a playoff team last year.

How did you check your boxes:

Fitzpatrick wsan't sharp early./CARMEN MANDATO

Fitzpatrick wasn't sharp early./CARMEN MANDATO

Quarterbacks: Starter Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn't as sharp as he had been in the first preseason game, hitting only five of 13 for 46 yards. He played only a quarter, and he admitted his rhythm was off. "I felt some throws out there," he said. Third quarterback Ryan Griffin (six of 11) wasn't quite as good, either. But Winston was good enough for all three. He stretched the field, hitting passes of 54 yards to DeSean Jackson and 38 yards to Mike Evans. He also threw for a touchdown on one of his wild, seemingly out of control plays.

"I gave my receiver (Chris Godwin) a chance to make a play," Winston said. "In film, I'll probably get yelled at."

Running backs: It was much of the same as a week ago. Starter Peyton Barber averaged five yards a carry, and backup Ronald Jones (four carries, two yards) didn't get going. As a team, the Bucs averaged just 2.7 yards per carry, which isn't good enough.

Offensive line: The Bucs haven't proven themselves yet.

Howard is starting to be a factor for Bucs./KEFFREY S. KING

Howard is starting to be a factor for Bucs./JEFFREY S. KING

Defensive line: Again, the Bucs need more pressure. Koetter is emphatic about how much he likes the effort of Jason Pierre-Paul, but Tennessee held the bunch at bay.

Linebackers:The Titans averaged just 3.1 yards per rush, so someone was doing the tackling. Riley Bullough led the Bucs with five tackles, four of them solos.

Defensive backs: The Bucs were spotty again. Tennessee quarterbacks had a rating of 104.5.

Kicker: Chandler Catanzaro hit three field goals and both extra points. What's the worry? "That's what he's supposed to do," Koetter said. "He does it every day in practice."

The Bucs lost three of their four preseason games a year ago, so a 2-0 start, with both games on the road, has to be encouraging. The Bucs are home Friday night against the Lions.

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