The basic question: Will Winston be better?

by Gary Shelton on September 5, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Winston still has questions he has to answer./CARMEN MANDATO

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Despite the interceptions, there is faith.

Despite the fumbles, there is hope.

His offensive line is made of spackle, and his running backs are held together with duct tape. There are too many losses on his resume, too many games where he came up short.The defense gives up too many points.

And yet, as Jameis Winston prepares to quarterback again, Bucs' fans are in that eternal search for a reason to believe.

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The NFL is a quarterback's game, of course. And so it is understandable that so many eyes are on Winston as he enters his fifth season. He has won only six games in the last two seasons. He has thrown 25 interceptions during that time and fumbled 18 times.

So, yeah, it's easy to argue that he isn't the only problem on the Bucs' offense, but he hasn't been a cure-all, either. There hasn't been a legitimate running threat. There hasn't been a dependable offensive line. No one would argue either of those. But Winston, too, has to be better.

“I think just as a competitor you are always constantly trying to take on more than what you should," Winston said. "I strain so hard to win, but that is something that coach has expressed to me is to allow everyone else to help. We have tremendous players on the offensive side and on the defensive side, so that’s been my main focus is to go out there and do my job. Do my job right and let everything else fall into place. Hopefully we will execute and win games.

“Every year my role is to get the ball out quick – that is just part of being decisive and making good decisions with the ball.”

This year, Winston hopes to benefit from new head coach Bruce Arians, who has a reputation for working well with quarterbacks.

"You’ve definitely got a lot of confidence in that guy because his résumé speaks for itself in B.A. (Arians)," Winston said. "I can’t stress enough having someone like Coach Byron Leftwich being in my position before, playing in this system and just coaching from that player’s perspective. It’s really a blessing having a great guy like Clyde [Christensen] as a quarterback coach, who has had a similar résumé to B.A. as far as the quarterbacks that he has prepared in this league – it’s really great for our room too.

"But as far as the team, every team has a new story. One thing about football is you will never have the same team no matter what. You will never have everybody on the same team from the previous year, so I think this team is going to develop another essence. We are going to be able to say we are different, but it definitely starts with action and execution.”

Winston in particular likes Leftwich, a former Bucs' quarterback himself.

“You are always going to have honest relationships with your coaches, no matter what," Winston said. "But again, the relatability that we have and the credibility that he has with being in this offense, it just helps you so much because he has been in this offense. He has seen San Francisco (and) he has been in that division the past three years, so there is definitely a lot that you can grow from with developing a relationship with him. There is also a lot that you can learn from him in terms of (the fact that) he has played this position for 10 years.”

Winston will also have his favorite target -- wide receiver Mike Evans -- in the huddle with him again.

“It is a blessing to have someone like Mike Evans who you can just throw the ball to on every single down," Winston said. "I know our relationship off the field has grown, but if you just watch practice, you can see the rapport that we have together. Most quarterbacks have that guy. Fortunately, I have that guy as well, with Mike Evans. That allows the other guys around him to step up and take the heat off of him because the other teams know, ‘Okay, the Bucs have Mike Evans.’ That is something that Mike accepts, and he is always going to accept that challenge because he believes no one can stop him. I believe that too.

“With Mike, what makes him so good is his ability to bend on every other route. Him stretching the field out vertically and his ability to stop on a dime and come back downhill, it really puts defenders in a standstill, and they don’t know. They are always trying to anticipate because that’s what a defense does – they react. Mike, he knows what he is doing. When he knows what he is doing, when he recognizes the coverage and especially when he recognizes man – he is a nightmare.”

Winston has been known to be overly amped when a game starts. Arians said it's important to allow a player to keep his natural personality.

"You never want to inhibit their true personality," Arians said. "We’ve talked about it. We’ll handle it. Byron  and I – we’ll script plays for the first 15 plays. I saw it in Pittsburgh – (Jameis Winston) was going through his skin (and) he went out and just executed perfectly. I never try to fool with a guy’s personality that much."

The Bucs and 49ers begin their seasons at 4:25 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.







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