Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.

Sikkema’s Stat of the Week

Who are some of the best modern day quarterbacks in the league?

For argument’s sake, we’ll start with New England’s Tom Brady. Brady’s best attribute: he’s a winner. When the lights are brightest, Brady out-shines them. There is no moment, no scoreboard and no situation that he can’t handle. When your back is against the wall, Brady is there for you. Brady doesn’t have the best arm or the fastest legs, but you know what? For the last 20 years all that guy has done is win. He’s a winner. He finds a way.

What about Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers? Man, what an arm. Rodgers is arguable the greatest passer in football’s history. I’ve seen that guy make some throws that no one else can make. He’s as cool as the other side of the pillow up top, and his arm can be red hot down the field. Rodgers, too, steps up in big moments, but I think what separates him from anyone else is how he can put that pigskin in pin-point locations 50-60 yards down the field and make it look easy.

Saints QB Drew Brees - Photo by: Getty Images

Saints QB Drew Brees – Photo by: Getty Images

Tampa Bay fans can’t talk about top quarterback play without mentioning the man who has haunted them for years. Yes, I’m talking about Drew Brees. Brees had shoulder surgery right before he came over from San Diego to New Orleans, and many thought his arm would never be the same. I never thought Brees had the strongest arm during his time with the Saints, but you know what he could always depend on? Accuracy. Brees’ accuracy over the last 10 years has been stellar. He’s posted just one season below a 65 percent completion rating, and has had five seasons of over 70 percent accuracy.

It would be remiss of me if I didn’t at least mention Russell Wilson. Wilson has been hung out to dry by the Seattle Seahawks for years. He’s constantly elevating that entire offense with athleticism and a stellar arm far beyond the talent around him. He’s had zero offensive line talent to work with, and yet Wilson is a guy that you can depend on to give you a chance to win every week. People link Wilson with being erratic, but he really isn’t. You watch him make these wacky plays, but that’s often because he has to. He’s calm in chaos; always.

When you think of Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and all that he could be, there are elements of each of those quarterbacks I named that exist within him. Winston has the winner’s will like Brady, as was evident by the clutch final touchdown he threw to Chris Godwin on the last drive of the 2017 season.

He sometimes looks like he has the arm of Rodgers, like when he threw the 55-yard bomb of a touchdown to Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2015. He’s shown accuracy that’s been Brees-like, at times.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The touchdown pass to Cameron Brate in the Packers game in 2017 being an example of that. And he’s shown to pull off the seemingly impossible like Russell Wilson, as we all remember the Houdini escape of a sack and long throw to Mike Evans back in 2016 against Chicago that won Play of the Year.

But there is a characteristic in all four of the aforementioned quarterbacks that is the main reason they are listed as the top signal callers in the league when Winston is not. Surrounding those individual traits they boast is consistency – and Jameis Winston, to this point in his career, has been anything but consistent.

Until now.

For the last three years, Winston has been Mr. Hot & Cold. One week he could come out on fire and get you an early lead, the next he could take an entire half just to warm up. Because of this, his wins and losses have been spotty, too; Winston is just 18-27 as a starter. He’s also missed time for injury, and 2017 was littered with on and off performances due to the nature of who he is combined with inconsistent health.

That was him three years into the league.

Before this preseason, if you asked me who Jameis Winston was a passer, I would have told you he could hit a football-sized window 35 yards down the field in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown one pass, and completely overthrow an open receiver by five yards for an interception on another. That’s just who he was.

But then this preseason happened.

One of Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken’s favorite phrases is “preseason games don’t count, but they do matter.” And let me tell you, for Winston, you better hope they matter. Because for what feels like the first time since he put on a Buccaneers uniform, we saw three straight top-tier performances out of Winston.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by Getty Images

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by Getty Images

Now, look, some of you will come at this claim and say that it was against second-team players in the second quarter of meaningless exhibition games versus vanilla defenses, but I don’t care at all – and here is why. Winston has the talent to be one of the better quarterbacks in this league, he just doesn’t show it enough.

So when I see a pin-point pass that comes from a perfect read and a good presence around the pocket, it wouldn’t matter if he made such a throw against second- or third-team defenses. If the ball got to where it needed to go at the speed and accuracy in which it needed to get there, we all know Winston is good enough to do that against first-team players. And you know what? In the last three preseason games, that’s what he did.

Over the last three games, Winston has posted a total of 388 passing yards with three touchdowns, zero interceptions, a completion percentage of 72.3 and a quarterback rating of 120.4, the highest of snap-averaged quarterbacks in the entire league.

Simply put: Winston is having one hell of a preseason. And the worst part about it is that it might all be for nothing.

For the first time in his career, we’re seeing real consistency from Winston. We’re seeing it in how he practices, in his mechanics, in how he’s working with his receivers, and it’s translating to the games. And you know what? It’s about to all go away.

For the next four weeks, Winston won’t be taking a single game snap. For three of those weeks, he won’t even be taking a practice snap. Heck, he won’t even be taking mental snaps with his team, as he won’t even be allowed in the building during his suspension. Winston will start his three game suspension this weekend after the team’s final preseason game (in which he won’t play), and chances are the momentum he’s gained during this preseason will be all for not in the short term.

But it doesn’t have to be all for not in the end.

For the first time in his life, Winston will be without football. He will be forced to watch his team play on a television screen without him. He’ll have to watch his teammates get criticized withouthim. He’ll have to watch them celebrate without him.

I hope it humbles him.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The only way the Bucs get out of this three-game suspension with a chance to make something of this season is if Winston becomes who he has never been before upon his return. The only way this works is if this new perspective of the game, of this team and of himself takes hold and he truly becomes a different guy than the one we’ve seen over the last three years. Make no mistake: the player Winston has been since he was drafted in 2015 hasn’t been good enough and still won’t be good enough upon his return. They need him to be better; they need him to be consistent.

The Bucs need Winston to play like he did in the preseason – all season.

If you’re a fan, it should sting watching Winston play well this entire preseason just for him to go away and cool down and possibly extinguish his hot streak again. And the only way he catches fire is if he looks at all of this through a different lens when he comes back.

The Bucs don’t need the Jameis Winston they’ve had for the last three years to come back after his suspension. They need a new Jameis Winston – one who has evolved in many different ways.

The preseason showed us that the evolution of his talent might be coming to fruition, but the answer to the rest of his potential evolution, as a consistent player, an accurate passer, a consistent teammate, and a man who hold himself accountable with consistent integrity, won’t truly be answered for another four weeks.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: [email protected]
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Wausa
Wausa
3 years ago

I think Jamies will be fine when he comes back. He prepares at an elite level and my guess is he will be breaking down Chicago film so much that he will know their defense forward and back when he comes back.

One of the biggest plays Jamies had was last week where the ref called a phantom PI against OJ Howard so it ultimately did not show in his stats.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Wausa
3 years ago

+100 on the phantom PI

XpfcWintergreen2
XpfcWintergreen2
3 years ago

What you are suggesting to me is that Jameis shows all the sign of having matured as an NFL quarterback. The question then is, has he matured as a human being enough at the age of 24 to become a successful “franchise quarterback? That is the question to be answered this year. Now, If Koetter has “matured” as a head coach also we will be on our way to having a top tier team in Tampa Bay. There are a lot of signs that a new era is dawning. This seems to be the make or break year in more… Read more »

4girls
4girls
3 years ago

Great question and article, Trevor. Here’s my $.02. If the Bucs are 0-3 and don’t look good, I think we’re in trouble, meaning same-old Jameis trying to do too much (“I want a W” in New Orleans, for example). If the Bucs are playing well and looking good (our record notwithstanding), I think the chances of seeing preseason Jameis are stronger. We shall see. Regardless, it’s been great to see he has it in him. Let’s hope it stays and grows even more. We shall see.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27
3 years ago

Jameis has looked fantastic this pre season. This is the Jameis that came into fsu and lit up Pitt in his first game. Touch ,accuracy, reading defenses. Hes also taken the checkdowns when they are there. Its been all there this pre season. It’s a quiet confidence hes playing with right now. I love the rah rah jameis, but this year I want to see quiet pissed off Jameis. Hes always had the skills and the work ethic. He just needs consistency. I think hell be more than ready to come back week 4. Hell have weeks of film on… Read more »

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  cgmaster27
3 years ago

Hell yes!

BUC-ASS-BOB
BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

On my way to the Gym this morning I saw a unicorn at the bottom of a rainbow and it has changed my outlook on Bucs. After last year Jason Licht sat down with Dirk and had a strongly word conversation and now our coaching problems from last year are over Bill Belichick step aside. Adding JPP Curry and Vita Vea will put the fear of god in the other teams O line we need get in contact with JZ and 50 Cent to make a Music video called Red Sack Attack. Giving Evans Brate and humphreys big raises will… Read more »

chefboho
chefboho
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

I gave you the thumbs down based on your obvious sarcasm. It would’ve been better for you to be the negative nance you always are as opposed to the fake positive person your trying to be.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  chefboho
3 years ago

please don’t feed the troll

Rut
Rut
Reply to  BUC-ASS-BOB
3 years ago

Will the Bucs be greatly improved? Probably not. Have you suffered for a long time with this team? I’m sure. But there’s just no reason for the constant hate. You hate everything about this team and it makes me wonder why you’re a fan, or on this page. Must be to troll. And the only way to handle trolls is to remove the anonymous wall they cowardly hide behind. Does anyone know who Buc Ass Bob is? Link to a Facebook page? I’m sure he’ll be less comfortable shitting on our favorite team when people can connect his sad, pathetic… Read more »

Dude
Dude
Reply to  Rut
3 years ago

Two wrongs don’t make a right. That’s uncalled for Rut. B-A-Bob has the right to troll, even if we don’t like it. He’s the one who has to live knowing he’s an online troll. But calling for links to a persons social media page is not right, immature, and potentially dangerous. Comments like this is far worse than any that uses sarcasm, or any negative comment towards a team. It’s not hard to avoid people in a forum who you know are going to post things you disagree with. Please, nobody pay attention to this idea. It’s wicked and hateful… Read more »

Rut
Rut
Reply to  Dude
3 years ago

Relax just trying to scare him off. Like I said, trolls feed on the comfort of being anonymous. Just want to remind him that no one is anonymous and no one wants him here. There’s nothing wrong with posting on a person’s social media page calling then a dummy for being so wrong and hateful when this team actually ends up doing well.

Dude
Dude
Reply to  Rut
3 years ago

I get what your saying Rut and revenge always sounds good on paper, but not everyone thinks the same way. There are people who can get the wrong idea in their head and take something too far. Oddly enough, something similar just happened on FB here in Tampa a week ago where a guy had a disagreement with someone on FB then went to their house and shot him. Unfortunately, we live in a day and time where we need to guard our words and use them carefully. Common sense has seem to have left the building.

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  Rut
3 years ago

Rut and Dude, relax. $UC-ASS_FOB is a Cowboy’s fan.

Buc-n-Philly Fan
Buc-n-Philly Fan
3 years ago

Jameis’ performance this preseason has been bitter sweet considering he will be out for three games. I also believe that this experience may be exactly “why” he is performing better. This hopefully has humbled him and made him re-evaluate how he got to this point to change him as a Man. The talent was always there.

This could have been a blessing in disguise. Adversity (stupid decisions) can break you or make you stronger. I really hope so…

Go Bucs!

Ja'crispy
Ja'crispy
Reply to  Buc-n-Philly Fan
3 years ago

Totally agree. He knows he needs to shape up or ship out. Having to take the 2nd string snaps and watching Fitz with the first team is going to create a chip on his shoulder. This whole experience Ii feel has matured and humbled Winston. Its time to become that elite QB we all know he can be.

nybuccguy
nybuccguy
3 years ago

I think play calling may have contributed to Winstons inconsistency. I want to see how he does in the regular season with Monken calling the shots.

76Buc
76Buc
Reply to  nybuccguy
3 years ago

If Monken calls the shots.

surferdudes
3 years ago

It’s obvious the offense as a whole is much better this preseason. All three Q.B.’s have looked good, and I think you can attribute it to the fact the Glazer’s stuck with Koetter, and the same offense for three years now. Imagine if we had a new staff, and all three Q.B.’s had to learn a new offense with Jameis then being gone for three weeks? Maybe we’re seeing more consistency because we’ve stayed consistent.

martinii
martinii
3 years ago

Based on what I’Ve seen in preseason we have 3 pretty good QB’s which compells me to believe that the success or failure of the Buc’s could depend on multiple other factors. O-Line, D-Line, DB’s, and RB’s. or more realistically a combination or total team effort. I am not throwing in the towel after the first 3 games. 10 wins could send us to the playoffs. Stats will try to convince us that we should prepare for a complete remake of the Buc’s in 2019 if we lose the first three games, but I am a bigger fan than to… Read more »

Schewpps
Schewpps
3 years ago

I’m not saying I’m not impressed, just that VH3 always had great preseason but always had garbage seasons…

makski
makski
Reply to  Schewpps
3 years ago

He always looks good in camp too. The reason he looks so good in camp is because it is much more like press or man coverage when covering WR’s in one-on-ones. Then, when the games start, we play mostly off coverage, which he is not very good at. That is also why he looks much better in the slot, it much more resembles man coverage. Wish we would just switch already…

blind melon
blind melon
3 years ago

Whatever happened it was a mistake and now two years in the past. A dose of humility can make one grow up pretty quickly and ultimately has one of two outcomes (especially in the naked lights of the media.) I think JW is (has) gravitated to growth. 24 years old. I believe we’re watching him become a leader of grown men – not kids playing a game “..eating ‘W’s…” I seriously doubt the suspension will effect his performance at all when he gets back to live snaps in the regular season. He will have to take advantage of the week… Read more »

nitey
nitey
3 years ago

I’ll say that the Jameis of late last season carried over to the preseason and got better. To say that we only saw the better quarterback play just this preseason isn’t completely true we saw the beginnings of this type of play at the tail end of last season. So, I *do* think Jameis has turned the corner, sucks that he has to sit for 3 games, but it’s the bed he made. I really expect Jameis to work hard the entire time he has to sit on the sidelines, so when he gets back, he’s going to be ready.… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  nitey
3 years ago

Agreed, sitting behind Fitz last year helped Jameis to grow and I feel like this situation will be no different

Horse
Horse
3 years ago

Here’s my norm: It all depends if our defense got better. How many times has Jameis been put in a position we have to play catch up? Trevor, why don’t you discuss more about our defense versus offense?

drdneast
drdneast
3 years ago

BUC-ASS-BOB being his same old nasty old man self.
You wonder why guys like him come to this site to follow the Bucs because he sure as he’ll doesn’t support them.
With fans like him, who needs enemies.
Bob, why don’t u stick your head out the door and yell at all the happy kids having fun in the neighborhood to get the hell off your lawn.
What a negative jerk.

drdneast
drdneast
3 years ago

Winston also had two bad drops last week on very crisp throws, one by the very reliable Humphries or he would have been 8-10 for a lot more yardage.
Even Coach Arians remarked after one play that Winston looked at a LB, pointed him out and said, “I know you’re coming 52.”
Great recognition and observation on Arians part who had praise for both Winston and backup tackle Mike Litke.

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  drdneast
3 years ago

Agreed, Arians is a great addition to the commentary team and knows exactly what he’s talking about. His praise holds a lot of weight

Dude
Dude
3 years ago

I agree with everyone here, that Jameis looked impressive this preseason, no doubt. But you know who caught my eye? Peyton Barber! I have to admit, I haven’t been a big fan of the idea of him being our bell cow. That is until now. Yeah, he looked decent, and good at times when he took over last year. But I wasn’t putting much stock into that. I was figuring it might of been because teams didn’t have much film on him. But this preseason he has surprised me, and looked very good and strong. I think he averaged at… Read more »

plopes808
plopes808
Reply to  Dude
3 years ago

I have been impressed with him as well. His ability to break through tackles will continue to serve us well, especially if injuries on the Oline continue.

Rojo doesn’t have quite the same ability to break through initial contact and that’s why he’s been lackluster so far. The Oline hasn’t helped our RBs out a whole lot but I hope once everyone is healthy they will surprise us all

Billy
Billy
3 years ago

I agree that although it was humiliating for another human being, Winston’s suspension is the best “Blessing in Disguise” we could have hoped for. Not only did it bring everything into perspective long term, the timing coming right when it appeared as if his on field play was turning a corner, couldn’t have had a more lasting effect. Nothing like appreciating what you have when it could be ALL taken away. Now we are seeing a more mentally tuned in Winston. Plus the orginization is sure to save a few $s in the process which can be used for more… Read more »

Charlie
Charlie
3 years ago

So that floppy prayer of a pass he threw up to Chris Godwin in the red zone was a sign of QB maturity? This idiot can’t figure it out on or off the field. I hope someone shows up to the home opener, “Hi, my name is Jameis Winston, welcome to Jackass.”

rocky
rocky
Reply to  Charlie
3 years ago

that sucked dude. It wasnt even funny. If you put something in quatations make it funny. Thats as bad as bad as when everyone used to quote the “you’re the weakest link goodbye.” God. You really sucked on that one Charlie

rocky
rocky
3 years ago

Its sort of crazy to consider but this may have been the best thing to happen to Jameis. Not the alleged groping situation of course that was unfortunate and wrong. In a way though having him sit out 3 weeks to watch while not injured may be the best thing for young Jameis when it comes to a professional football point. Hes sat out games before and when he came back he was hungry and killed it, the problem was he was injured and couldnt quite get fully going. Now fully healthy and showing what he did in the preseason… Read more »