Jameis Winston doesn’t discriminate when it comes to spreading the ball around.

At least, that’s what he’ll tell you.

Outside of Mike Evans, who will likely always see the most targets because, he’s Mike Evans, it is well documented that Winston has an affinity for his tight ends.

Since his days at Florida State Winston has used his sure-handed tight ends as his safety blanket. When Winston took the reins of Jimbo Fisher’s offense in Tallahassee, that tight end was Nick O’Leary. Over two years Winston connected with O’Leary for 14 touchdowns, transforming O’Leary from an underutilized weapon into a fan favorite.

His penchant for looking for his tight ends has carried over into the NFL and continues to be successful. Last year, Winston connected with Cameron Brate for a league-leading eight touchdowns. Brate also posted a career high 660 yards receiving working with Winston.

Fast forward to 2017 and the third-year signal caller is in tight end talent heaven with Brate and first round pick O.J. Howard. After a slow start to this year’s campaign, Winston’s connection with his tight ends was on full display against the New York Giants. Brate and Howard combined for six receptions, 143 yards receiving and two scores.

Bucs TEs O.J. Howard and Cam Brate - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs TEs O.J. Howard and Cam Brate – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The rookie Howard opened his NFL account on a scoring play that might have looked familiar to viewers. That’s because he’s done it before. Howard scored on a similar play months earlier in the college football National Championship. Howard himself was reminded of the play when he found himself wide open close to the Buccaneers sideline.

“Same side of the field, up that same sideline,” Howard said. “It was like déjà vu. It was a great feeling, just as the one in January was. I was really excited about it.”

Quarterback Jameis Winston was looking forward to getting Howard, a fellow Alabama native, his first touchdown in the pros.

“I told O.J. at the beginning of this week, ‘you’re from Alabama. If you don’t give me a touchdown, we’re going to have some problems,” Winston exclaimed. “He went out there and executed. That is what he does. He is getting better every single week.”

Head coach Dirk Koetter shared the excitement and looks forward to more of the same from his first round draft pick.

“Shoot, if we can get him that wide open for a touchdown every game that would be beautiful,” Koetter said. “It’s pretty cool to get the first touchdown of your career like that. A long one like that where you’re wide open. I’m happy for O.J. He’s got a lot more in him.”

While Koetter will certainly be looking forward to more of the same from the rookie, what he got out of Cameron Brate was business as usual. The Harvard product is picking up right where he left off last season with two scores already in the bag in just three games. Along with his touchdown against the Giants, Brate converted a crucial third down that lead to the game winning field goal. The aforementioned play was one that the team had never formally practiced, showing the confidence Dirk Koetter has in not only his quarterback, but the trusty tight end.

“It’s a play that we never really practiced,” Koetter said. “We practiced parts of it, we just haven’t practice that part. Jameis and Cam have practiced that part. That particular one fit in the concept because those guys have practiced it. They told me it was game ready, so we let it rip.”

It’s not often that a head coach in the NFL has enough trust in two players that he tells them to let it rip on an unpracticed play. Even Brate was a bit taken back by the amount of trust his head coach put in him with the gutsy play call.

“Coach shouted a play that I don’t think we have ever ran before,” Brate said. “We’ve talked about it earlier in the week, but to call it with a minute left on third-and-one shows a lot of trust in me and Jameis. It was pretty awesome that we came through for us.”

As surprised as Brate might have been, the clutch nature of comes as no surprise to Winston, who will be the first to tell you that Brate is the hardest working player on the team.

“Me and Cam work on everything,” Winston said. “It’s just a testament to how hard he works. Coach Koetter – when it’s time to make a play – he can call it. He can call it with the best of them. Shout out to him. Cam is consistently working hard every single week. He’s the last one off the field. It’s a blessing that he got that pass.”

Winston and his shiny new dynamic duo will look to continue their success on Thursday night against the defending champion New England Patriots, a team that is no stranger to including tight ends in their offense.

–Story written by Austin Dewitt 

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  1. Still can’t get over how confident and clutch Cam and Jameis were on that clinching 9 route. Koetter with the balls to call it and Cam/Jameis with the confidence to ask for it. Against one of the elite safeties in football no less. Well played, guys.

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  2. I rewatched most of the game last night. JW’s accuracy still needs work, he is putting too many balls in spots where receivers have to alter routes to attempt catch, sometimes unsuccessfully, sometimes disrupting route in ways limiting yards gained. Even deep ball to OJH probably incomplete if Giants had a DB in the vicinity.
    Before the haters come out, yes he’s improved vs last year and I’m not expecting him to reach his potential for a few more years, I’m just objectively noting what I saw. That plus ball security is what needs to improve for him to be elite, he obviously has then intangibles

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  3. Your right matador, Winston isn’t perfect. Neither is Tom Brady. But Luke Brady he practices to improve his craft every day. When he stops doing that then I will complain and pick at every flaw of his home like you do faux GM. But until then, STFU.

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  4. Sorry for expressing my opinion. True franchise QBs have pinpoint accuracy. JW sometimes does but more often than not he’s a little off target making things hard for receivers, who bail him out with their own athleticism. It’s what I see rewatching the games. Sorry for being objective, I know an increasing number of people put emotions before facts these days. How’s that working out?

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  5. Whoops – Rick Stroud of Tampa Bay Times has same irritating habit of being objective about facts – better avert your eyes, Easty

    Of the 20 passes thrown to Jackson, including some that were caught, four were behind him, two were short, two were overthrown, two were the result of bad protection. One was caught out of bounds, one was a throwaway, one was high, yet another was a terrible read…On passes of 15 yards or more, Winston is just 3 of 11 (27.3 percent) when targeting Jackson.

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  6. Not elite, yEasty. Hopefully in another year or three, clearly has potential to elevate to that level, but he’s just not there yet, and while effort is appreciated but lots of people try hard but never get there. Too many inaccurate throws; just ‘slinging it’ ain’t enough. With time will come maturation and control and better decision making, but he is not there yet and as a team we need more time to overcome a decade+ of poor drafting.

    Relative to where we’ve been ex the Gruden and Dungy years it’s still an improvement but the emotionally high strung homers need to take a breath and realize things take time, turnarounds take time, and neither he nor we as a team are there yet.

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