TAMPA, Fla. — Jameis Winston is five games into his first NFL season, and in his opinion, defenses don’t have much to be concerned about this early in his career.
“I’m really nobody in this league yet, so they don’t have to worry about me,” the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback said Wednesday. “I have great teammates that do a great job, and we have a great team.
“And that’s what I think the biggest thing about this league is: You have complete team wins. You can’t have a game where your offense plays really good and your defense and special teams don’t do well and win the game. You can’t have a game where your defense plays outstanding and your offense and special teams don’t do [well] — you’re setting yourself up for failure.”
Winston’s response came after he was asked if he noticed the difference in defensive preparation for him between the college game and the NFL. At Florida State, stopping Winston became the concentration for defenses as he developed as a star. Now NFL defensive personnel might focus on limiting the Bucs’ rushing threat and force the former Heisman Trophy winner to try to beat them.
Winston understands the challenge. Despite his acknowledgment that he has room to grow, he’s willing to try to lift his team to victory if made to do so.
“It’s football, so at the end of the day, teams are going to be like, ‘OK, give me your best against our best,'” Winston said. “So we’re going to have to compete no matter what. Any challenge that’s offered to me, I’m going to take it.”
On Wednesday, Bucs offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the Houston Texans tried to challenge Winston in that way during Tampa Bay’s loss in Week 3, when Bucs running back Doug Martin was held to a season-low 46 yards on 14 carries. That day, Winston completed just 17 of 36 passes for 261 yards with one touchdown and one interception. His 47.2 completion percentage from that game is his lowest of the season.
Koetter knows Winston will be forced to carry the Bucs’ offense soon. He has one piece of advice for the young signal-caller: Be prepared.
“That day is definitely coming,” Koetter said. “And Jameis has to be ready. I don’t have an opinion on it. We have no choice. He has to be ready.”
A better connection with wide receiver Mike Evans would help that cause. After totaling a team-high 1,051 yards receiving last year, Evans has just 174 yards on 13 catches in four games this season. Veteran wide receiver Vincent Jackson leads Tampa Bay with 306 yards on 20 catches this year.
“I’ve been making plays and then a couple, I haven’t been making them,” Evans said. “But I’ll start making them.”
Doing so would help the Bucs’ Winston-led offense evolve in a healthy way. Winston has been inconsistent to start the season, completing 86 of 152 passes for 1,174 yards with seven touchdowns and seven interceptions. He owns a mediocre 77.6 passer rating, and he has just two games in which he hasn’t thrown a pick.
As the season progresses, defenses could force Winston to grow up in a hurry. But the young quarterback knows the more help he receives, the better chance the Bucs will have to succeed.
“I think this game is just a complete team game, whereas [in] college, one person basically can take over the game,” Winston said. “I think that’s like every [sport], other than basketball. Basketball, one person can probably take over the game.”