Tampa Bay won the off-season lottery in recruiting Bruce Arians to become their next head coach, a man who after several health scares appeared to be done with the game, as a coach at least. As a man with history developing QBs, it’s clear that the Bucs hired him with the intention of working with Jameis Winston, rather than getting him to work with a rookie this year or next.
There’s no doubt about it, Winston is a very talented quarterback – but flawed. He is far too turnover-prone. Arians is capable of bringing the best out of Winston, but equally should the Bucs be needing to be making so many concessions for a fifth year starter? Well, even Aaron Rodgers proved he needed more help on offence last year.
To get Winston playing as a top 10 starter, where are the areas that the Buccaneers need to improve? Improving the Florida State alum’s technical ability? That will be taken care of by the work of incoming coaches Byron Leftwich and Clyde Christensen under Arians.
Ironically one thing the Bucs need to do is improve the defence, particularly in coverage, to relieve pressure on the offence. The Bucs conceded 29 points a game last season, fewer than only the Raiders. If the Bucs need more than four touchdowns to win a game, no wonder they turn the ball over. The Bucs led the league in total turnovers and interceptions, with Winston contributing 14 of their 26 interceptions in 11 games.
That doesn’t mean that the Bucs don’t have problems on offence. The Bucs led the league in passing yards with 5125 – not something you would expect from a 5-11 team – but had the fourth worst rushing attack by yards, that’s quite a disparity. That left them 12th in terms of points – to put that in perspective, Baltimore’s offence scored only seven points fewer despite averaging nearly 100 fewer yards per game. Running the ball more will also protect the defence and secondary that clearly needs it, sapping the clock and reducing the number of snaps they are facing.
There is talent on the Bucs offence. Mike Evans, OJ Howard and Cameron Brate are all big pass-catching threats, but particularly after the loss of Desean Jackson, there is a lack of depth at receiver, with Chris Godwin and Breshad Perriman battling to line up opposite Evans. Howard is also not the most durable player at Tight End, which limits options further. Ultimately though, as last year’s numbers reflect, they need to develop a running game with a rookie playmaker in the backfield to protect Winston after averaging only 3.9 yards per rush in 2018 – better than only Arizona. Unlike the Cardinals, it’s not as though they can blame the O-Line for the lack of production.
So as the draft approaches, it’s clear that the Buccaneers have some thinking to do. While it’s undecided if Jameis Winston is a bust or not, he is the ultimate boom or bust player. Should Tampa need to make so many concessions to make Winston a winning QB having won more than six games in a season only once since drafting him?
Winston is not the biggest problem in Tampa but he is one, and the Bucs need to know his value exactly with him entering free agency next year. It’s worth noting that if the Buccaneers don’t extend their franchise QB this offseason, it will be telling, but they would leave themselves extremely vulnerable to replicating Joe Flacco’s 2012 contract with the Ravens, post-Super Bowl win. With the help of Arians and co, as well as a few minor additions on offence, Jameis Winston will have no excuses in 2019.
photo: Bucs Nation