Bucs eager to see next step in Winston’s developmentJameis Winston started slowly in his preseason debut against the Vikings, but he looked more comfortable as the game progressed. CHRIS URSO/STAFFBy Roy Cummings | Tribune Staff Published: August 23, 2015 TAMPA — The Buccaneers were down by nine and struggling to move the ball late in the first quarter of their preseason opener against the Vikings when rookie quarterback Jameis Winston combined into one play all the skills that made him the first pick in the 2015 NFL draft.As he dropped back to pass on third-and-14 from his own 18-yard line, Winston saw safety Robert Blanton take a step toward tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and knew immediately that wide receiver Vincent Jackson would be facing single coverage while running a post pattern deep down the right sideline.It was just the kind of break Winston and the struggling Bucs needed to ignite their offense, and Winston didn’t fail to cash in on it.With defensive end Danielle Hunter barreling down on him from the right and tackle Tom Johnson grabbing at his legs from the left, Winston kept his eyes focused downfield, stepped into his throw and lofted a 40-yard pass that Jackson grabbed and cradled in his arms as he fell to the ground at the Vikings’ 42.The completion was Winston’s first of the night after three tries and the conversion was one of only two he would make during two quarters of play, but it was one of several reasons why Bucs coaches and executives said they were “thrilled’’ with what they saw from Winston during his debut.“He made all the right checks and things like that and he looked comfortable in the pocket, especially at the end,’’ said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, who is eager to see what Winston does for an encore when the Bucs take on the Bengals tonight at Raymond James Stadium.“He threw some good balls and when you look back at it, there were probably about three other balls that could have gone his way. He also finished strong, and that’s a good sign. We just need to protect him a little better.’’The fact they didn’t is one of the reasons Winston graded out as well as he did. Though he did take one sack, Winston also escaped pressure and scrambled for gains on three other occasions, including one in which he scored the Bucs’ first touchdown.The Bucs also were pleased with the way Winston retained his confidence following a slow start, how he commanded the huddle, communicated plays and kept his composure even after broken plays or plays that resulted in him taking some tough hits.“Yeah, he got hit a couple of times but you never saw him waver out there,’’ center Evan Smith said. “Some guys get out there and they get hit once or twice and all of a sudden their dropbacks get a little shorter and they get a little skittish. Not him.“He was very cool and calm in the pocket and even in the two-minute drives, he was on top of what he had to be on top of. And that’s big, because when you’re like that, everybody can trust you and when you can trust a guy, everyone starts believing.’’ As impressed as the Bucs were with Winston during his debut, they also walked away from it believing there was room for improvement in several key areas.For instance, after watching Winston miss badly on each of his first three throws and complete just two of his first nine, they’d definitely like to see him start faster.They’d also like to see him further refine his footwork and throwing mechanics and improve on his communication with his pass catchers, which was among the flaws that led to his interception.“We’ll really just be looking for general overall improvement,’’ quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian said of the Bucs’ objective during tonight’s game. “I mean, obviously you’d like to have some of those (early) throws back, and especially you’d like to have that interception back.“But overall, his communication with the rest of the offense and his command of the huddle and at the line of scrimmage was really good. And we really liked the way he bounced back and finished the game strong.’’That strong finish included Winston hitting on seven of his last 10 throws and running for a touchdown after a play broke down around him. It started, though, with that long throw to Jackson.“I was not the first read on that play,’’ Jackson said. “I’m one of the primary reads if a certain coverage comes up, and when they went into that coverage, Jameis saw it right away.“It was one of those plays where you have a couple of reads and the coverage dictates where you go with the ball and he read it perfectly, stepped up with heat in his face and delivered a perfect ball.“So that’s an example of him recognizing things and delivering the ball and he did it at a big time in the game. I mean, we had been struggling a little bit, but he hits that big play and it kind of gave us some juice.’’email@example.com(813) 259-7893 Twitter: @RCummingsTBO
That game was nothing more than a start of rehearsals.Check equipment, check.Check pads and helms, check.The lights working? Check.Everyone show up, check.Players know playbook? Check.Hiccups? Check.I mean, it SHOULD be what preseason is about. Getting ready. These are just sparring matches. Do with them as you will.Personally, i saw a winston that was anxious in his first nfl outting, a team that wasnt quite in rhythm yet, and a coaching staff not commited to winning, but rather focus on seeing what they had for a product first.Up until game three i expect forward progress. Next game should be better, imvho.
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