Key to Bucs’ off-season? Help Winston

by Gary Shelton on February 9, 2017 · 2 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Winston needs to be even better in 2017./JEFFREY S. KING

Winston needs to be even better in 2017./JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 6 a.m.

Jameis Winston was better in 2016.

If you didn't see it, you probably weren't looking.

I say this because I was scrolling through through the internet Wednesday when I happened upon one of those first-to-last quarterback ratings from the NFL. Having more time than sense, I decided to look. And once again, I am stunned to find that some people talk their way into a byline.

Bucs' quarterback Jameis Winston was 17th in the rankings, which can be defended or attacked. There are a lot of quarterbacks jammed

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Winston needs to be working on his accuracy./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Winston needs to be working on his accuracy./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

together in the teens of these rankings, and as we all know, Winston is not yet the finished product that he will be.

But the text of the article seemed to make it appear that Winston had struggled in his second year. And then I looked. The rankings were done in week 15 of the season. For goodness sakes. It's February. How about a write through? Better yet, how about doing your homework.

Again, I'm not here to defend Winston. This year, he threw too many interceptions, and he wasn't as accurate on his deep ball as you'd like. But I've said this before: The main problem with the Bucs is that they expect Winston to be their best player every bleeping week. His running backs were lost this year. His offensive line was beaten up. His receivers could have used a little more sizzle.

Still, Winston was better. Not perfect. But inarguably, definitively, absolutely better. No argument.

This year, Winston won three more games than his first season.

This year, Winston threw for more yardage than his first year, once again cracking the 4,000-yard barrier.

This year, Winston threw for more touchdowns (28-22).

This year, Winston had a higher rating (86.1-84.2).

This year, Winston had a higher competition percentage (60.8-58.3).

This year, Winston had more attempts and more completions. He was sacked more times (35-27), which probably had something to do with him having 18 interceptions to 15 as a rookie. His game-winning drives (three each season) were the same.

Of course, you would expect improvement in a quarterback from his first year to his second. But there are times I think that all of us — especially Dirk Koetter – who has no other choice — expect too much from Winston.

That's why Jason Licht needs to keep this as his mandate: He has to make life easier for Winston. He needs a running back, through free agency or the draft. He needs a speedy wide receiver. He needs to firm up the offensive line. Nothing is more important.

Did you watch Tom Brady's comeback Sunday night? He did it because of Julian Edelman and his amazing catch. He did it because of Chris Hogan. He did it because of Martellus Bennett. He did it because of his offensive line. Because as good as he is, Brady can't throw to himself.
I liked the approach the Bucs had to last off-season. They needed a defensive end. They needed a corner. And they got one each in free agency and one each in the draft. Flooding the positions went a long way toward making the defense better.

But the truth is this: Even in their six-game winning streak last year, the Bucs didn't have enough sizzle on offense. The Bucs need more special players. They need a lot of them.

As for Winston, let's hope that right now, he's busy working on drills to improve his accuracy. Let's hope he still works on his conditioning. He should work on deep balls constantly. Winston should put pictures of Brady, of Matt Ryan, of Cam Newton, of Drew Brees in his locker. And every day, he should try to get a yard closer to them.

For the Bucs, the job should be all-encompassing. The easiest way that Licht and Koetter keep their jobs is for Winston to get better at his.

Look, I really don't care how some doofus ranks Winston. I doubt he's spent more than 15 minutes watching him throw.

But if Winston pays attention to details, and if Licht surrounds him with the right kind of help, and if Koetter can orchestrate a better offense, Winston has a chance. If so, the Bucs have a chance.

And next year, Winston should be among the top dozen quarterbacks in the league.

No matter when you do the poll.

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