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SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. Winston Returns, Now What?
When Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston returns from his three-game suspension on Tuesday nothing will have changed.
He’ll still be the No. 2 quarterback behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, just like Winston was in training camp and the preseason.
And that’s okay. In fact, that’s perfectly fine.
I’m not just talking about the fact that we’ve all witnessed FitzMagic in the first two games – two wins – to start the season.
I’m talking about the fact that Winston has done a great job following Fitzpatrick’s lead and it would behoove the Bucs to let that continue while 35-year old veteran has the hot hand. A quick look back at training camp and the preseason proves that’s the case.
Winston was actually the Bucs’ top-rated quarterback in the preseason, completing 30-of-41 passes (73.2 percent) for 388 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while posting a 126.9 QB rating. As well as Fitzpatrick played in August he completed just 17-of-28 passes (60.7 percent) for 183 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and a QB rating of 79.9.
The big question is whether Winston could have done what Fitzpatrick has done over the past two games, which is to complete 78.7 percent of his passes for 819 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception (which wasn’t even his fault) – and a ridiculous QB rating of 151.5.
Let’s take a look at what Winston has done in his three-year career in Tampa Bay.
Winston has had a 400-yard passing game before, throwing for 405 yards with three touchdowns and an interception in a 37-32 loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 in 2016.
Winston also had back-to-back games with high completion percentages where he passed for 299 yards and completed 77.1 percent of his throws with three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 24-21 loss to Atlanta on Monday Night Football last December and then threw for 367 yards with one touchdown while completing 77.8 percent of his passes in a 22-19 loss at Carolina.
Winston also threw five touchdown passes with no interceptions while completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 265 yards in a big 45-17 win at Philadelphia as a rookie.
So could Winston have had put up similar numbers? How much of this is Dirk Koetter and Todd Monken’s offense? How much of this is Fitzpatrick?
I’m not taking anything away from Fitz, but I think given the same looks and the same protection he could have come close to those numbers with one big difference. I haven’t seen Fitzpatrick make a risky throw yet. His lone interception came on a fluky play in which O.J. Howard should have made a catch.
While vastly improved, I don’t think Winston has gotten the risky throws out of his system just yet. Remember throwing the ball up off his back foot under duress to Chris Godwin in the preseason game at Tennessee? Godwin came down with it despite the throw being in triple coverage, but that’s an interception most of the time.
Eight hundred yards from Winston in the first two games? With Tampa Bay’s weapons – sure.
Eight touchdowns in the first two games? Maybe.
Hitting the deep ball as often as Fitzpatrick? I don’t know. Winston has improved in that area, evidenced by a 54-yard connection with DeSean Jackson in the preseason at Tennessee.
Just one turnover in the first two games? I’m guessing more like two or three for Winston.
Two wins to start the season? Perhaps, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Winston would have begun the season 1-1 as a starter.
As I mentioned in this week’s PR Roundtable, I’m not sure when Winston will get a chance to start again this season if Fitzpatrick keeps playing the way he does, but that’s okay if he doesn’t. Winston has made strides over the second half of last year and in this year’s preseason, where he demonstrated better decision-making.
However, I do think Winston will re-enter the starting lineup at some point this season. And no, the Bucs aren’t going to trade him or part ways with him. He’s still very well thought of in the halls of the AdventHealth Training Center (One Buccaneer Place). The 24-year old Winston is the future at the quarterback position in Tampa Bay despite how well Fitzpatrick is playing.
To be honest, Winston became a better quarterback from the sidelines watching Fitzpatrick go 2-1 during the three starts Winston missed last year due to his shoulder injury. Winston was a more accurate quarterback when he returned to the lineup over the last five games of the season when he averaged 316.8 yards per game with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 67.2 percent of his passes.
Well, maybe something will have changed when Winston walks into the locker room on Tuesday morning after all. He’ll still be the No. 2 quarterback, but I think watching Fitzpatrick – even from afar – will be invaluable experience for Winston again. He’s seen Fitzpatrick lead the Bucs to a 2-0 start in a low-key way, while having fun, while being efficient and while staying away from turnovers.
There’s a lot for Winston to learn from watching Fitzpatrick play and succeed, and there’s going to be a lot of football for Winston to play in his young, bright future.
In due time.