For Bucs, Winston must be efficient, not spectacular

by Gary Shelton on September 20, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

Jameis Winston needs to be efficient for Bucs./STEVEN MUNCIE

Friday, 4 a.m.

They have won exactly one game in a row, and that one, they won by a foot.

Their quarterback has played one game without throwing touchdowns to the other team.

Their coach just notched his first victory, one that he suggested the team won "despite" him.

And yet, there is a different feel at One Buc Place. Winning will do that for a team, particularly one that hasn't managed much of it for a very long time.  There is a feeling, for a change, that the team is getting better, that it is well coached, that it can make a few plays here and there.

As they say, it's a start.

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The narrow victory over Carolina last week happened because of a couple of things. The defense made a big stop; that hasn't happened a lot lately. The quarterback was efficient; that hasn't happened much, either. The running game was good. The team was balanced. The defense stood up. The team won on the big downs.

"We’re getting there," offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. "We’re getting there piece by piece, we’re cleaning things up here and there, so a lot of good things are happening right now for us – a lot of work being done, though. [There’s] still a lot of work being done, but we’re just going to continue to try to keep getting better every week.”

And, for a chance, it feels as if things are getting better.

Start with Winston, who had his 18th game with a rating of 100.0 or better. He was patient. He didn't try to force the ball. He played the way you'd like to see him play a lot. For once, it didn't appear that Winston was trying to do too much.

“I don’t know – all I could do is judge this year" Leftwich said.. "That’s any quarterback – any quarterback has got to understand, (if) you come in this league, try to be Superman and try to win it all on your own, most of the time you’re going to lose it – that’s throughout the league with the position. We’re just going to go out and make a bunch of routine plays – that’s all we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to do anything special. We’re just trying to go out and put these guys in position – they’re good enough that their routine plays will win against some defenders, if not most defenders, from a personnel standpoint. We’re just trying to make sure we just keep toning up our system (and) keep screwing everything tight so we have a good idea where we’re going to be at and Jameis (Winston) can have a good idea where everybody’s going to be.”

Winston handled a bad opening game well, Leftwich said.

“As good as you can handle it," Leftwich said. "It was a short week – a really short week – and he just had to get ready to go to the next game. I promise you, by that Monday, we came in, watched the film, but we knew we had a tough opponent Thursday night. The worst thing you can do is talk about what just happened the day before, so we moved on, we learned from it as a whole – as a team, really. A lot of things showed up Thursday night from an improvement standpoint from that Week 1 game. As a whole (and) as a team, I think we got better. Hopefully, we can continue to do that.”

Leftwich said he is trying to find a role for each player in his offense.

“I don’t think that ever stops," Leftwich said. "I don’t think that thought process ever stops because your whole thought process is always trying to get your guys in position to play well. I just think it’s the process of a new system, guys are doing new things and it usually takes some time, but I really like where we’re headed. I think I’ve got a good idea of what we can and can’t do as a team. I think I’ve got a good idea of our personnel and we’re just in a good spot right now. We’re just in the process of trying to do whatever we can to try to win football games.”

The defense deserves a lot of the credit for that. It held Carolina without a touchdown and made the key stop of the game on fourth-and-one at the goal line.

“Vernon (Hargreaves III) made a great play," defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. "He made a great play on a great running back. That’s really the size of it. Our backs were against the wall, as were theirs. You’ve got to make a great play to win the ball game (and) he made a great play.”

Bucs' players said that Bowles called the final fourth-and-one before it happened,'

“They still have to execute," Bowles said. "They have to go out and execute the plays, so I give more credit to them than I do myself.”

This week, the challenge changes. The Giants are starting rookie quarterback Daniel Jones, which means they may see plenty of running back Saquon Barkley.

“His highlight tape is better (than other backs)," Bowles said. "I don’t know what separates him – I haven’t seen them all – but he’s got great vision, he’s got great body lean and he’s got strong legs. He makes plays. Everybody tries to defend him (and) he makes plays every week. You can sit there and watch the tape and every week he’s doing something great.”

As far as Jones, he's something of a mystery.

“We’re not sure what he brings," Bowles said. "As far as in terms of Eli (Manning), he’s replacing a great quarterback obviously – and they wouldn’t replace him if he wasn’t a great quarterback himself – so we just have to be ready to play the Giants, not ready to play Daniel Jones. Rookie or vet, it doesn’t matter for us – we’ve got to play the Giants. Whether he’s 22 or whether he’s 40, we’ve got to play football and we’ve got to try to play our game.”

Through two games, linebacker Shaq Barrett is off to a good start with four sacks.

“The big guys inside get doubled a lot, so that creates a lot of space for him, and Shaq has just taken advantage of it," Bowles said. "He is playing hard, he has an array of moves that he tries to do and they worked out for him.”

Conversely, Leftwich is dealing with a player (O.J. Howard) who hasn't had a lot of production.

“I don’t know if it needs to be a focus – I just think O.J. will win his matchup when the ball comes his way," Leftwich said. "The ball just didn’t come his way [Thursday] night. It wasn’t anything that he didn’t really do or he has done – I just think sometimes the ball doesn’t come your way. I believe it came his way Week 1. It just didn’t come his way. He’s not doing anything wrong. We all need to get better as a whole, and the ball just didn’t get his way Thursday night.

“If I was a defensive coach, I would worry about him. Not to say that they’re doubling him, especially when you’ve got guys like Mike [Evans] on your team – Mike has been seeing the double teams mostly. It’s just the ball didn’t get that way. Just throughout the game, the ball just didn’t get that way Thursday night, but he’ll be fine.”

For instance, Chris Godwin caught a touchdown pass Thursday night because the Panthers double-teamed Howard.

"Yes, and if they would’ve did it the other way, O.J. would’ve been the guy catching the touchdown, and that’s just how it is," Leftwich said. "You just want to design good football plays. You can’t determine who they decide to cover and who they don’t cover. As long as we can execute good football plays and put our guys in position, we don’t care – trust me, we don’t care who catches it or whatever happens after. We feel as though we’ve got enough good football players that if we can get the football in their hands, they’ll make enough plays for us.”

Bowles said that his team was playing hard in the new 3-4 defense.

“Again, it’s still early like you said, but the guys are playing hard," Bowles said. "They are playing for each other and they are playing together. The big thing with us is communication. They are communicating more – we’ve still got a way to go, and it’s still early in the season – but they communicate more and they love playing with each other.”

The Bucs play the Giants at 4:05 p.m. on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.




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