Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Three Bucs keys to a better Jameis Winston

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TAMPA — Every turnover has its own story. In the past two seasons, Jameis Winston has co-authored at least 42 of them.

Let's flip to the ending of 2016, where you won't find Winston and receiver Adam Humphries on the same page.

The Bucs trailed the Panthers 7-3 late in the first quarter, facing first and 15 with the ball on the Tampa Bay 18-yard line. Humphries is split outside the numbers to Winston's left. Carolina cornerback James Bradberry is playing 15 yards off the line of scrimmage in zone coverage.

Humphries is late off the snap and runs a 5-yard stop route but doesn't get his head all the way around. Instead of the ball hitting him between the numbers as intended, Winston's throw is wide, deflects off Humphries' left arm, and Bradberry makes a juggling interception.

It was the seventh first-quarter interception by Winston, whose accuracy and precision are focuses for the Bucs this offseason.

"Adam is a little late off the ball," offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken said Thursday. "The ball is a little (outside). It gets tipped, and Bradberry picks it off. That's insulting. That's insulting to coaching that we couldn't hit a 5-yard stop route to him right in the numbers.

"That's on me first and on us because we got a turnover on a simple play. When you're asking about the turnovers, that's a part of it. … That's where we have to get better."

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Let's be clear: The Bucs love Winston. They love his competitiveness and charisma. They love his arm strength and work ethic. He has been to a Pro Bowl. He won nine games last season. You forget he is only 23.

What makes him great is that he won't give up on a play. It's what also makes him give the ball away — 33 interceptions and nine lost fumbles in his two seasons.

So how does Winston take himself to the next level? We asked the assistant coaches whose job it is to make sure the Bucs quarterback takes a leap forward.

Convince Winston a punt is not a bad play

In two seasons, Winston has proven to be one of the NFL's best improvisational quarterbacks. His ability to escape pressure and his athleticism are underrated. He's also very accurate outside the pocket.

"Part of the problem is he's such a competitive player, and that's what makes him so great," Monken said. "You don't want to coach the aggressiveness out of him. The big thing is he's got to do a better job of understanding situational football. I know five of those interceptions came on third down and 10-plus, where our chances of converting on that (down) and (distance) statistically is 20 percent or less.

"We've got to end every possession with a kick. (Florida State coach) Jimbo Fisher used to say that all the time, and we've either got to be kicking an extra point or we've got to be punting it. It's okay."

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Improve footwork and release

Winston had a tendency to spread out his base too much at times during his first two seasons. He has also worked hard at shortening his stroke.

The Bucs have not been a team that gains a lot of yards after a catch. Some of that is on Winston. Some of it is on the receivers. For instance, Mike Evans last season was focused on just eliminating his drops.

Quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian said the Bucs now chart every throw Winston and his fellow quarterbacks make during organized team activity workouts. The practice will continue through training camp and the preseason. Each attempt is graded on one of three scales: precise, accurate or off, Bajakian said.

Weapons added

It's a lot easier to be accurate when you add players who can get separation, such as DeSean Jackson, signed this offseason as a free agent, and tight end O.J. Howard and receiver Chris Godwin, drafted last month. Winston's reliance on Evans and tight end Cameron Brate sometimes was to his detriment in his first two years.

"It's one thing to say you've got the weapons and everybody talks and that's the buzz," Monken said. "But it doesn't matter if we overthrow people or we run the wrong route or get to the wrong place faster. What matters most is that we're all on the same page, we don't buy into the outside noise and we all work to get where we want to get, because we haven't achieved anything yet."

RELATED: More from Rick Stroud

Contact Rick Stroud at stroudbucs@aol.com. Follow @NFLStroud.

   
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