Bucs haven’t been on the field together in a month

by Gary Shelton on September 15, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Koetter has until Sunday to make the Bucs cohestive./CARMEN MADATO

Koetter has until Sunday to make the Bucs cohestive./CARMEN MADATO

Friday, 2 a.m.

It has been a while since the boys in the band were together.

It was way back in August, in fact. By the time the Bucs take the field on Sunday, it will be 31 days since they were — briefly — together. Since then, they have dealt with a pedestrian training camp, a roster trim-down and a hurricane.

And now, they have to play football.

You remember the buzz, don't you? How this was going to be one of the best offenses the Bucs have fielded, how the defense was going to take up where it left off last year, how this season was going to include a run at the post-season.

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Winston has improved his deep-ball accuracy./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston has improved his deep-ball accuracy./CARMEN MANDATO

But can the Bucs be ready for a league that has gotten a head-start on them?

Start with quarterback Jameis Winston, who hit 47 of 69 passes for 495 yards in his preseason cameos. That might leave you to hope for a better start (Winston has been 1-3 in each of his two seasons). Certainly, he has come a ways since his first season with the Bucs.

“Of course he was a rookie then,” said Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter. “We all remember what happened on the very first pass of his career. My own opinion is if you’re going to draft a quarterback that high, you should play him. That’s how he is going to get his experience. Thirty-two games into (his career), I still believe that.

“I think, as I’ve said many times, Jameis will continue to get better and better. My confidence in Jameis is as high as it possibly could be, but I’m sure it will go even higher if we go further together – if we go as long as some of those other coaches have been with their quarterbacks, but we will see how that goes.”

In particular, said offensive coordinator Todd Monken, Winston has improved on his deep balls.

“Without a doubt that is probably the biggest improvement,” Monken said. “I thought last year just the strides he made in terms of controlling the offense, where to go with the ball, he has made even more significant strides in my mind with the deep ball and taking care of the football. I know some people can point to the Jacksonville game, but overall as far as where to go with the football, accuracy with the deep ball and taking care of the ball and living to play another down, I think he has really improved.”

“I just think it’s a matter of repetitions. I can’t speak specifically to what Mike (Bajakian) worked with him (on) in terms of technique, but I do think there is something to be said for the same receivers doing it over, and over and over and never getting tired of doing the same things over and over until you get really good at it. It’s really just a matter of repetition. I’m sure there [are] some technique things that he has improved on. We will see as we move forward. What we have seen so far, we like, now we’ve got to do it on Sunday. That’s what it comes down to – doing it on game day.”

Winston continues to be a work in progress.

“You know, change is good at times,” Winston said. “I’m working on my patience. You are who you are. Ali (Marpet) has shared this quote – it’s a Dr. Seuss quote – ‘There is no one that can be more youer than you and that’s truer than true.’ That really stuck with me because we are all our individual selves. Nobody can be us more than us. It’s so simple.”

“I’ve learned that winning is more important than anything. In times like that (early in his first two seasons), most of those early turnovers were me trying to do too much. [They were] me trying to be the hero. This is a team game and definitely with the weapons that we have now, we are going to be able to take advantage of every opportunity that we get. I’m getting better every single day. I’m not perfect. No one in here is, but it’s exciting to get things started and it’s exciting to finally take what you say you’ve learned in the offseason in the years to come and finally lace them up and play.”

With Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson at the wideouts, and with rookie O.J. Howard at tight end, the Bucs have better weapons for Winston. Running back Doug Martin will miss three weeks on suspension.

“It starts with having talent,” Monken said. “We have talent. I’ll just speak on the offensive side of the ball. It won’t be about talent. It won’t be. We’re good up front. We’ve got guys that can run the football. We’ve got guys that can catch it. We’ve got guys that can throw it. Now it’s a matter of us, from an execution standpoint and from an effort standpoint. To me, that’s where you want to be and that comes down to coaching – us doing it better than they do it.”

After one game, Chicago is 25th in the NFL in defense. Last year, they were 18th.

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