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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’s Primetime Woes Continue

Let’s not beat around the bush. Nick Folk’s three missed field goals cost the Buccaneers a chance to upset the New England Patriots on Thursday Night Football in Tampa Bay. The Bucs could have used those nine points in a 19-14 loss that puts the team at 2-2 on the season and snaps a six-game home winning streak dating back to last year.

Yet as bad as Folk was on Thursday night, a good deal of the blame for this loss falls on the shoulders of third-year quarterback Jameis Winston. Usually reliable tight end Cameron Brate didn’t do Winston any favors with four dropped passes before catching a late fourth quarter touchdown pass. And Dirk Koetter’s helter skeltor play-calling did little to get Winston into a rhythm early.

But Winston isn’t a rookie anymore. The training wheels are off and this is the kind of big-time, playoff-atmosphere game that he needs to show he can consistently win before he becomes an elite quarterback. This is the type of game that Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger win. Heck, this is the type of game that Cam Newton won last week when he and the Carolina Panthers upset the Patriots in New England.

Winston has had a few fourth quarter comebacks, such as last year’s 17-16 win over Carolina and a 19-17 win at Kansas City, but he’s also had plenty of games where he’s fallen short in the fourth quarter. Tampa Bay’s 26-20 loss at Dallas and a 37-32 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Rams last season come to mind.

The Patriots game reminded me of a lot of the Rams game from a year ago – albeit with fewer points. In both games the Bucs got down into the red zone and Winston had a chance to win it with a great throw. In both games that great throw never came and Tampa Bay lost.

“Just a bad decision on my part,” Winston said on his final pass, which was intended for rookie tight end O.J. Howard but was thrown too soon. “I didn’t give anybody a chance. Like I said, there’s two seconds on the game, the only thing that can hurt you is throwing the ball where nobody can get it and that’s what I did there. But, we’ll bounce back. It’s a learning experience for me. I’m happy the way we fought, we battled. We never gave up. The defense played phenomenal. Offensive line protected great. The receivers caught the football. Running backs ran hard. The quarterback has to make plays to win in NFL football. Quarterback has to make plays.”

Truer words have never been spoken from Winston.

The Bucs didn’t just draft Winston in the first round in 2016. He was the number one overall pick. Winston was the best player in the 2016 NFL Draft. It’s time for him to grow up and become a better playmaker.

Not just in crunch time, but throughout all four quarters.

You see Winston didn’t lose the game on the last play. That was just the play where he didn’t win the game.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

Where Winston and the Bucs lost the game was in the first half when they trailed 13-7 and blew several opportunities by not converting a third down until less than two minutes remained in the third quarter. With Winston and the Bucs it was yet another maddeningly slow start in a primetime game where Tampa Bay now has a 1-4 record dating back to Winston’s rookie season in 2015.

A first glance at Winston’s stats would make you believe that he plays well in nationally televised primetime games. In his five appearances in night games Winston has completed 113-of-198 (57 percent) passes for 1,424 yards with nine touchdowns and four interceptions.

On the surface it looks like Winston out-dueled Brady as the Bucs’ signal caller completed 26-of-46 passes for 334 yards (56.5 percent) with one touchdown and no interceptions. But that wasn’t the case as 225 of Winston’s passing yards came in the fourth quarter. He only passed for 109 yards in the first three quarters and too many of his errant passes came on third downs that forced the Bucs to punt.

Therein lies the problem for Winston. He’s a notoriously slow starter in primetime games and it absolutely kills the Bucs’ chances of winning.

2015: 31-23 Loss at St. Louis on TNF
Winston: 29-of-50 for 363 yards (58 percent) with 2 TDs, 1 INT
First Half: 6-of-12 (50 percent) for 49 yards

2016: 17-14 Win at Carolina on MNF
Winston: 18-of-30 for 219 yards (60 percent) with 1 TD, no INTs
First Half: 9-of-14 (64 percent) for 85 yards

2016: 43-28 Loss vs. Atlanta on TNF
Winston: 23-of-37 for 261 yards (62.2 percent) with 3 TDs, no INTs
First Half: 13-of-19 (68 percent) for 136 2 TDs

2016: 26-20 Loss at Dallas on SNF
Winston: 17-of-35 for 247 yards (48.6 percent) with 2 TDs, no INTs
First Half: 6-of-12 (50 percent) for 81 yards, one INT

2017: 19-14 Loss vs. New England
Winston: 26-of-46 for 334 yards (56.5 percent) with 1 TD, no INTs
First Half: 8-of-16 (50 percent) for 71 yards

In three of his four losses in primetime, Winston has completed just 50 percent of his passes in the first half, including Thursday night’s defeat at the hands of the Patriots. Those shaky starts have contributed to the Bucs trailing in every primetime game at the half with the exception of the Panthers game last year, which is Winston’s lone primetime win.

2015: Bucs at Rams – Down 21-3
2016: Bucs at Panthers – Up 6-0
2016: Bucs vs. Falcons – Down 20-14
2016: Bucs at Cowboys – Down 17-6
2017: Bucs vs. Patriots – Down 13-7

In those five primetime games Winston has passed for just 422 yards with two touchdowns and one interception in the first half, yet 1,090 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions in the second half while trying to play catch-up. And Winston’s furious fourth quarters have only resulted in one come-from-behind win.

What I can’t fathom is why Winston starts off so poorly in primetime games – the Falcons game from last year being the lone exception.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

This was a guy that connected on 25-of-27 passes (92.6 percent) for 356 yards with four touchdowns and added a rushing touchdown in his first ever college game at Florida State, beating Aaron Donald and the Pittsburgh Panthers, 41-13 on the road. Ninety-two percent!

This was a guy that strolled into Clemson as a redshirt freshman weeks later and completed 64.7 percent of his passes, throwing for 444 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for another in a 51-14 dismantling of the Tigers in Death Valley in a nationally televised night game.

This was a guy that won the Heisman Trophy in his first year of college football and then led the Seminoles down for a game-winning touchdown drive against Auburn in the BCS National Championship. It doesn’t get any more primetime than that.

This was a guy that overcame three first half interceptions to throw three touchdowns and lead Florida State back to a 42-31 win at Louisville in 2014 on ESPN’s Thursday night football – with Bucs general manager Jason Licht in attendance.

Where is that guy?

That’s the primetime player Licht and the Bucs thought they were getting in the 2015 NFL Draft.

That’s the player that Winston needs to become – like right now – under the lights, in the big games.

Part of the reason Winston struggled against the Patriots is that they changed up their defense and went away from the man coverage they played in the first four games of the season and played more zone coverage, at times only rushing three linemen and dropping eight in coverage to confuse Winston.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR

“Well, they have been playing almost entirely man coverage,” Koetter said after the game. “We had a feeling they’d make some changes and they mixed their zone coverages a lot more tonight. They mixed man and zone, but they gave us a lot of different looks. They dropped eight. They played a lot more two-deep, they haven’t been playing very much two-deep, so that’s a good job by them.”

But that still doesn’t explain him overthrowing wide-open receivers like he did twice with Doug Martin. Winston missed a golden opportunity on Tampa Bay’s first third down of the second half when DeSean Jackson used a double move to beat New England cornerback Malcolm Butler down the right sideline only to see Winston’s pass sail over his head. That would have been a big touchdown and given the Bucs a 14-13 lead – assuming of course that Folk would have made that extra point.

“The very first drive of the third quarter, it was like a third-and-four, DeSean ran that little double move up our sideline. That’s a couple feet off – that’s a 60-yard touchdown. DeSean got on top of his guy, we’ve got to hit him.”

In order for Winston to become an elite quarterback and for the Bucs to in turn become an elite football team, that’s a throw he has to, has to, has to hit.

“I missed him on a shot that could have been a touchdown,” Winston said. “Again, you’ve got to play perfect. You’ve got to execute. When the play is there, you have to execute the play. You can’t miss opportunities and that’s what happened tonight – missed opportunities, a ton of them, by me. Got to get better. Got to get better.”

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Winston was disheartened at the podium has he spoke after another primetime defeat, putting the loss on his shoulders.

“I think we fought hard,” Winston said. “I think we really fought hard. Our defense played great. The game could’ve went either way, but at the end of the game, the quarterback has got to make a play. That’s the bottom line. You’ve got to make a play at the end of the game. I can’t really sum up [anything] else but that. The quarterback has to make a play.”

He’s right.

Winston had a chance to win this game. With a 6-foot-6 tight end in Howard, the 6-foot-5 Brate and a 6-foot-5 wide receiver in Mike Evans, Winston needed to put one up like he did to former Florida State 6-foot-5 wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin to win a national title.

“I had one [chance] – it was a bad ball,” Winston said. “You’ve got to give him a chance. I had a tight end wide open – just got to give him a chance, got to give him a chance on the ball. Two seconds – got to give him a chance.”

Where Winston can give the Bucs their best chance of winning is not in the waning minutes of the game with a heroic touchdown pass. It’s being calmer under the lights in the first half and putting up more points earlier in the game so Winston doesn’t have to be a late-game hero in the first place.

Jameis Winston is a good quarterback, but sometimes good isn’t good enough.

It’s time for Winston to be great – especially in primetime.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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MudManVA

Nice article and good podcast last night. All good points: Offense choppy play calling can be better Winston being better in the 1st quarter Run Martin more Defense short handed soft coverage All these things are true. All that being said NE didn’t look that much better than the BUCS last night. NE got help with sustaining drives on penalties too. Brady wasn’t great. The difference last night was NE made their field goals & the BUCS didn’t. Period. Missing FG’s and not being able to count on your kicker effects play calling, morale, and momentum. We all believe the… Read more »

Horse

You said it all.

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Dman

How great would it be to have 99 coaching the D line.

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MIArmysoldier

I was thinking the same thing…

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Naplesfan

Good Fab 5, Scott, as usual. There’s too many missing pieces in our puzzle right now. Jameis’s ability to read defenses is just not very good, and his accuracy on throws is just all over the place … he’ll make a great ball placement on one throw, then just flat out misses on the next throw leaving us scratching our heads. The defensive line play was better last night, but we still left Tom Brady too many easy throws. Sure, they’re the no. 1 offense in the league, but our objective is to beat offenses like that, like a drum,… Read more »

Julian Pere

I agree with Sapp on the defensive changes that need to be made. I would also like to add that one of the things I’ve noticed that we are lacking on the D-line is speed. We’ve got the size and strength all across the line but we are definitely lagging on speed. If you notice the majority of the teams that have an impressive rush have defensive end speed. And that speed is such a force that it causes the protective O-line to collapse. Bottom line no pressure no take always. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

Dman

Patrick Murray, our kicker from a couple years ago, may be a free agent. He beat out Connor Barth but was injured and waived the following year. Be nice to see him back at One Buc…..

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gafikdetail

koetter offense & play calling sucked… never gets his QB into a rhythm early… all low percentage throws down field

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e

I wonder if Jameis gets himself too psyched up before the national games? I know he’s the captain his thing is to get everyone pumped; but might he benefit with some kind of medidative focus before he hits the field? Pure adrenaline is great for some of the positions on the field, but maybe he could benefit from a different approach. He’s too fired up early and it shows. As he settles into games and calms down, he seems to play better. I think it would be worth investigating.

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macabee

e,

You may be on to something. Did anybody see how lathered up Winston was when he was greeting players as they left the locker room? One of the announcers noted how worked up he was. I love the passion, but if/when it borders on frenzy, it’s probably not a good thing. Perhaps it helps him get pumped to perform and motivates his teammates, so I’m hesitant to say he shoulder wear earpods and chill. lol. I just want the guy to succeed by any means necessary. Go Bucs!

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Cerious

On one hand you want Jameis to be elite and win games, so he gets the majority of the blame for this loss. But on the other hand the kicker misses 3 fieldgoals and I’ll give him the 56 yarder, but that still 6 points left on the floor for no good reason. 6 points wins us the game. On top of that you can’t blame Winston for not being elite when Brate is dropping TD passes in the endzone. That drop was crucial! Not only did we not get 6 points, but Folk went out and missed the gimme… Read more »

buddah

The last play of the game was inexcusable and Jamies knows it. He panicked. His will to win showed big-time in the game. He just needed one more sharp throw. The next eight games will be a challenge. They are all winnable and loseable. Six on the road. We have to split the road games and win the two home games. If we can make it to 7 and 5, we’ve got a shot. I thought all along, the team was being overhyped because it would take time to integrate Howard and Jackson into the offense and to establish a… Read more »

sunshineben

Winston was not the best qb in the draft by most nfl people .Bucs fired 2 head coaches(Dungy,Gruden) who put their vote on M.M. who beat Winston on EVERY category at the nfl combine. Winston has great receivers but look at qb ranking by the nfl. M.M. has been listed ahead of Winston every year since being drafted. Winston may be a local fan fave from a great school but not the best qb drafted, no matter how much he gets praised.( dont hate me:>)).. I am a bucs fan and have season tkts so i will pull for Winston… Read more »

deeznuts

Mariota isnt better in # games played, total yards, or touchdowns. Mariota hasnt played a 16 game season yet. Winston grinds every week. Sure, it’s a toss-up between the two at this point. Theyre both quality QB’s. It’s best not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. Winston threw for over 300 yards yesterday without any turnovers.

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cgmaster27

OH now we have to listen to your carp again? How is mariota? Not playing again this week I see. Look at the stats this year clown.
60% completion
3 tds
3picks
1 fumble
oh and hasn’t played a full season in 5 years dating back to college.
Get over yourself already, Mariota will never QB this team.

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Naplesfan

It’s not helpful to argue Winston vs. Mariota, period. It’s just not relevant to anything that matters. It’s especially not helpful to argue that based on stats. In terms of total QBR, this season to data Maritoa is ranked #6 in the league at 62.6, while Winston is ranked #26 in the league at 40.2, two spots below Blake Bortles (ouch!). Last night Jameis had a QBR of only 27.4. No matter the stats. Jameis is our quarterback, and he is playing only sort of OK so far, rather than the big leap forward in his third season that PR… Read more »

cgmaster27

Actually Naples, thats’ using ESPN’s corky ass formula. Going to an actual NFL site the ratings are as follows. Jameis 4 154 94 61.0 38.5 1,198 7.8 299.5 7 4.5 3 1.9 58T 12 2 7 46 92.4 Mariota 4 110 66 60.0 27.5 792 7.2 198.0 3 2.7 3 2.7 55T 11 2 2 5 79.8 The last numbers are NFL ratings. SO yeah I can use stats to back up my claims. Point is, I”m tired of hearing about mariota so I’m going to respond with facts every time I do. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Naplesfan

Total QBR is the gold standard of quarterback stats. You can cherry pick whatever you like, but 95% of the NFL world relies on Total QBR. The stats aren’t “corky ass” – they reflect everything that a quarterback does, from the basic matters of completion ratios and yards per attempt, to the game conditions (downgrading “garbage time” stats), etc. Per the gold standard of QB stats, Jameis is a bottom tier (bottom one third of the league’s starters) player this season to date. Jameis was much better last year, in the upper half, but still far from elite. I’m not… Read more »

cgmaster27

The gold standard? Please. So explain when they show qb stats before a game they don’t be use those stats? And yes they do take into account situation. Jameis quarterback rating isn’t 113 when the team is within7 points. So explain how he has more td, better completion percentage, and and his best qb right when the game is close. SO You can cherry pick and stick to espns “golden standard” I’ll stick to my stats. Golden standard, my goodness you come a crossed as a condescending know it all sometimes. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

cgmaster27

Oh and one more thing, your precious QBR has mariota ranked ahead of Mathew Stafford, Drew Brees and Aaron rogers this year, and if you think that, you need to stop watching football.

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Naplesfan

If you think anybody in the league, or who covers the league professional, seriously believes that Jameis is performing well this year, or is “elite”, or is making progress towards becoming elite, you’re smoking crack. You’re letting your garnet and gold slip show, CG. Jameis’s performance this season so far is described by virtually everybody but cracked out Nole homers as mixed, mediocre, up and down, take your pick. Jameis himself describes his performance that way. Bucs fans (as opposed to rabid Nole fans) describe his performance that way. His coaches describe his performance that way. That is not to… Read more »

Buc 1976

Give Jamis a valium before a game.

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deeznuts

Sure, Winston could have played better but he was one of very few bucs who kept us in the game yesterday. You cant have a 23 year old QB throw 47 times a game and expect to win consistently. He missed Jackson on a few deep balls and forced a few others. But the game isnt won and lost on the quarterback. You cant blame winston for missing a throw to a rookie TE as time expires without any timeouts, and no hope that the kicker is behind you. Brate got hit in the chest with two passes in the… Read more »

Naplesfan

Your comments makes a lot of sense … that is, until you take account of the fact that our defense limited the number one offense in the league to less than 2/3 of their average PPG in the four prior games this season. And until you consider that our offense only scored 14 points .. virtually nobody can expect to win an NFL game by scoring only 14 points.

The defense didn’t lose this game – the offense and special teams (kicker, really) lost this game.

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surferdudes

The 49ers spent a high first round pick on a D end yet they have a dismal pass rush. Browns did the same, but due to a foot problem he hasn’t been a factor. If you’re counting on the Bucs using their first pick on a D end to solve their pass rush woes, you may be very disappointed. I like the idea of Sapp as our D line coach. He’d bring an intensity, and attitude to a line that is lacking. His comments were enlightening. Why does an offensive minded coach defer to his 30th ranked defense when he… Read more »

Naplesfan

Note that only one team in the entire league is allowing less than an average of 14 PPG … Buffalo, at 13.5 PPG … and since the NFL does not allow fractional points, our offense and special teams together managed to score what only one team in the league has allowed.

Offense and S/T simply have to score a lot more points.

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Naplesfan

Sorry, Surfer … my reply was intended to go to deeznuts, not you.

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bEubanks11

It seems to me that both Koetter and Winston play these big games not to lose until they need to play to win. Winston also doesn’t seem to yet be able to handle the pressure of being the guy. He talks the talk but I don’t believe he truly believes in himself to be the guy. Again, seems to be throwing passes like a baseball pitcher who’s struggling to throw strikes. He’s dropping his elbow and wishing the ball to a spot instead of trusting his talent and throwing the damn ball with confidence. Throwing passes in the fourth quarter… Read more »

4girls

I’m wondering if Koetter needs to let his OC call the plays. It’s not easy to be the HC and call the game. Our best offensive season in recent memory was when Koetter was OC. I remember him saying when he became HC that he would call the plays, but would be open to changing if needed. I’m wondering if that might be the case. Might be something to consider sooner rather than later. Thoughts?

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fl0nase

I don’t know enough about Monken to know whether he’s an upgrade to Koetter from a play calling perspective.

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4girls

Me either, Fl0nase. But, there’s only one way to find out.

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fl0nase

Loved the points that SR made about his big game ability in college. I don’t watch college but it sounds like he had a sense of belonging, the stage wasn’t too big for him, and he just did his thing like he can. To me with him as a Buccaneer, he’s too amped up. I’m not sure the state still isn’t a bit too big for him in his mind. Tom Brady’s an idol and you heard how excited he was to meet him in some of the pregame commentator chit-chat. He needs to put that out of his mind.… Read more »

Horse

Can we please chill a little; I know we want to win every game, but it’s not reality. The blame can be spread all around from players, coaches, and GM. Time to move on and make adjustments where it’s feasible. Go Bucs! Let’s get this next win?

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chefboho

Horse I’m in agreement with you. I’ve been reading on other bucs sites how our unruly fan base wants a new quarterback already! It’s mind boggling. There’s so many reasons for why and how we lost last night and jameis is just a small part. I enjoy knowing we have a quarterback that has the fire and passion jameis does. This team is behind him and after all the issues we had last night, we still took the super bowl champs down to the last play. This is a young squad and our quarterback isn’t even 25 yet. Rate this… Read more »

XpfcWintergreen

Being an old f*rt …

I have watched the development of some of the best and the “fizzling out” of a few “sure things” in regard to some NFL quarterbacks over the years. I have followed the development of John Elway, Bret Farvre , RG3 and Andrew Luck (?? “jury’s still out”) … just to name a few.

I see Jameis as “right on schedule” so far. He is still up and down in his play. Now, after the end of this season ……?

_____________
Go bucs!!!!

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bigbuc

Elite??
For 3 quarters Winston wasn’t even GOOD

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DrT1066

Free agent pass rushers Ah oh yeah-
Calais Campbell.

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Buc 1976

DrT we should have tried harder to sign Campbell.

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bucballer

Like all, I’m disappointed that the Bucs lost this game and with a national audience watching. Thought it was a statement game for the Bucs. Having said that… we played one of the premier teams in the NFL with HOF QB and almost pulled it out had we made a kick or two. I think with the key Starters missing we made it a close game! If we have those 4 Starters playing… I think we win the game! We are 2-2 and will get our Starters back next week. While I cuss Jamesis at times with his inconsistent throws…… Read more »

76Buc

Please end all discussion about Clemson defensive ends!!! Can’t we learn the lessons of history?

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Jordan Chavez

All the Winston crap can stop…. Yes he didn’t have a perfect game. But the dude is 23 and still got us to a point where we had an opportunity to win the game against the world champs…. Instead of us fighting for a top 10 pick like we did however many years in a row we are now all playoff hopefuls! That’s what Winston is doing. He is developing and learning. He led the game winning drive against NYG and I’m sure he will have a few more this year. With that being said.. Yes, he did get off… Read more »