Taking care of the ball a goal for Bucs’ Winston

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston aware of taking care of the ball./JEFFREY S. KING

Winston aware of taking care of the ball./JEFFREY S. KING

Friday, 3 a.m.

Sometimes, a quarterback's success isn't measured by the touchdowns he throws.

Sometimes, it doesn't matter how many yards he gains.

Sometimes, and this is particularly true of Bucs' quarterback James Winston, the real test is in just how clean a game he can play.

That's one reason the Bucs were pleased with Winston's efforts in last week's opener against the Chicago Bears. Winston has never thrown for fewer yards in an opener than the 204 he managed against the Bears. His one touchdown pass was a career low. His rating and his competition percentage were higher in last season's opener than last week.

But check this out.

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Winston has had more dazzling numbers./EFFREY S. KING

Winston has had more dazzling numbers./EFFREY S. KING

Zero interceptions.

Zero fumbles.

Zero brain-cramps.

In all, it added up to a 22-point victory for the Bucs. And while Winston misfired with long passes throughout the second half, he took care of the ball.

"I thought he played outstanding,” said offensive coordinator Todd Monken. “The biggest things were this: I thought he was very composed, we didn't turn the ball over, there weren't any throws where you sat there and said, 'Wow, that had a chance to be intercepted. You can't even think about that.’ So that's the number one thing — were you in charge of our team? Did you lead our team? Were you composed? Were you talking to the receivers?

"I thought for the most part he was on target. He looked very relaxed in the pocket. When he moved around in the pocket he didn't look — sometimes Jameis can look twitchy in his feet, so I thought he looked very much more under control."

Monken was especially impressed with the way Winston managed the ball.

"Not turning it over,” Monken said of what impressed him the most about Winston's game. “And it wasn't even close. I mean, I can't remember — there might have been, but off the top of my head there was [nothing]. There was maybe a deflection here or there, maybe right during two-minute there was a throw to DeSean that got tipped. But I thought [he was] making great decisions, I thought just the way he carried himself, and we didn't turn the ball over. We're going to win a lot of games if we don't turn it over. That's where it starts.

"But again, it's one week. We say it every year: You can't carry over stats. You can't be 50 percent on third downs this week and then 20 percent or 10 percent, or 70 one week and then 20. Yeah, it balances it out, but then you're terrible eight games of the year. So it's every week. And now, what's the challenge this week? To not turn it over."

Winston, said Monken, is more aware of ball protection.

"I would hope so, and I thought our protection was outstanding. I mean for the most part, you talk about him having a pocket for him to throw, Coach (Dirk Koetter) did a great job of designing chip help in protection to keep that pocket. That's where any quarterback is going to have issues with turning the ball over, when he's under duress, one being stripped, the other is when he's trying to make his play and can't get his feet set and the ball doesn't come out as accurate as he'd like. So us getting the ball out, designing it to where we can keep a pocket, that was big. Having Ali (Marpet) in there, in terms of the pocket that firms it up. So there are a lot of things that lend themselves to that, being ahead in the game. So all those things lend themselves to (good quarterback play) – if you're able to run the football, stay ahead of the game, stay ahead of the chains, have protection the way you'd like it and then receivers being in the right spots will strengthen the margin for error."

Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said Winston should be better in the future.

"I think Jameis has improved across the board and he played fine in that game, but I think Jameis will play better than he played in that game,” Koetter said. “I don’t think that’s his best. I don’t mean that as a putdown. I think Jameis did what he needed to do and that’s it, which [was] fine for that game. Every game is different.”

Said Winston: “I think we played clean. I think we can play a lot better, especially myself. I believe I can play better.”

Winston said he's never relaxed, however.

"I never get comfortable,” Winston said. “I think it’s just [that] I have a little more experience. Like I said, my main thing is to get better every year. Last year Game One vs. Atlanta, I got better. It was better than my first game my first year. This year — no turnovers, so it was good. Again, just getting better every single day now. Fortunately, that’s behind us and now we’ve got Minnesota this week. We’ve got to get better for this week

"I’m going to be me. I’m going to be who I am. There is no way that I cannot be me. But definitely passion versus emotion, if you are going there, that’s something that we preach every week here — having passion and losing the emotion. I’m an emotional player, so I’ve always got to make sure passion is always winning.”

For the Bucs, game time is 1 p.m. in Minnesota.

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