Jameis Winston had a rocky start to his NFL carer, not picking up a completion until his third series in his first preseason game against the Vikings. The former Florida State QB had some misfires and some strikes, but wasn't afraid to make aggressive throws and stand in the pocket and take hits.
And take hits he did. Tampa Bay's offensive line is horrible, and Winston was mauled most of the night. And things might get worse if the knee injury to starting right tackle Demar Dotson is serious. There is a chance that Tampa Bay has the worst offensive line in the NFL by a significant margin. But, teams don't end up with the No. 1 pick just because they have a deficiency at one spot -- it takes time to climb out of the hole.
It's very important to not read too much into one half of a preseason game, but rookie QBs picked highly in the draft usually struggle early, and watching Saturday night, I was left wondering if Winston will last a season taking hits like he did. The worst offensive lines in the NFL typically allow 55 or more sacks. Tampa Bay might be in the historically bad range among lines in this century, like 2014 Jacksonville (71), 2002 Houston (76) or 2006 Oakland (72), and if that happens, it could really stifle Winston's development.
The detailed recap (below) is provided by our friends at Pewter Report. Visit Pewter Report for excellent free Bucs coverage.
Winston's First Drive - Bucs 0, Vikings 0
On third-and-5 from the Tampa Bay 23, Winston's pass to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who was double-covered, was high and forced the Bucs to punt. Winston had Russell Shepard open in the left flat and running back Charles Sims was open four yards past the line of scrimmage in the middle of the field and could have had a first down.
Winston 0-1 on the drive
Winston's Second Drive - Vikings 3, Buccaneers 0
On second-and-10 from the Bucs' 13, Winston tries to hit Mike Evans on a skinny post pattern, but the throw is behind him and sets up third-and-10. On the next snap, Winston was pressured and his deep throw to Vincent Jackson, who slipped on the play, was short and incomplete.
Winston 0-2 on the drive
Winston's Third Drive - Vikings 9, Buccaneers 0
Winston is sacked on first down by Everson Griffen, who beat left tackle Donovan Smith with an inside spin move. On second-and-19, Winston scrambles for five yards. On third-and-14, Winston hit wide receiver Vincent Jackson with 40-yard gain to pick up a first down. Winston then hit Louis Murphy for 14 yards on an out route. Winston then threw two incompletions, one to a well-covered Seferian-Jenkins, and one to Jackson, who had the ball knocked away at the Minnesota 3. That incompletion forced a 32-yard field goal by Patrick Murray.
Winston 2-4 for 57 yards on the drive with 5 yards rushing
Winston's Fourth Drive - Vikings 9, Buccaneers 3
On second-and-8 at the Tampa Bay 40, Winston's pass to Evans was overthrown and intercepted by Vikings defensive back Antone Exum. Winston stared down his receiver, who was being held a bit, and it was an easy pick.
Winston 0-1 on the drive with an INT
Winston's Fifth Drive - Vikings 16, Buccaneers 3
On first-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 20, Winston's deep pass for Evans was broken up, but the refs missed an easy pass interference call as the defensive back. On third-and-4 from the Tampa Bay 26, the snap from center Garrett Gilkey was wildly high, but Winston was able to recover the fumble for a 13-yard loss for Tampa Bay.
Winston 0-1 on the drive
Winston's Sixth Drive - Vikings 16, Buccaneers 3
On second-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 14, Winston and Gilkey had a center-QB exchange issue and Winston picked up and proceeded to lose eight yards on a sack. On third-and-16, Winston scrambled out of the end zone for five yards to avoid pressure and was tackled at the Tampa Bay 9 to set up fourth-and-11 and a punting situation. The officials could have thrown a flag on Minnesota cornerback Trae Waynes, who hit Winston's helmet with his forearm on the tackle.
Winston 0-0 on the drive with 5 yards rushing
Winston's Seventh Drive - Vikings 23, Buccaneers 3
The Bucs replaced Gilkey with Jeremiah Warren at center for Winston's seventh drive, which started with 2:41 left in the first half. On first-and-10 from the Tampa Bay 24, Winston hit tight end Luke Stocker with a gain of 18 yards on a short pass to the left flat. On first-and-10 from the Bucs' 42, Winston hit Bobby Rainey with a 5-yard gain before finding Murphy with a 12-yard gain down to the Minnesota 41. On first down, Winston hit Murphy with a beautifully thrown 18-yard out route to the Minnesota 23. On second-and-5, Winston hit Murphy with a wide receiver screen pass for seven yards to the Minnesota 11. On second-and-7 from the Minnesota 8, Winston's pass to a well-covered Kenny Bell sailed a bit high in the end zone. On the next play, Winston scrambled eight yards and dove into the end zone for his first touchdown to cap off a nine-play, 76-yard scoring drive. Tampa Bay went for a two-point conversion, but Winston's pass to Russell Shepard, who was covered, fell incomplete.
Winston 5-6 for 53 yards and an 8-yard rushing TD on the drive
Winston's Eighth Drive - Vikings 23, Buccaneers 9
The Bucs got the ball back at the Tampa Bay 36 after defensive end Lawrence Sidbury, Jr. recovered a fumble forced by defensive tackle Will Gholston with less than a minute left in the first half. On first-and-10, Winston hit tight end Brandon Myers for a gain of one yard on a play in which right tackle Demar Dotson injured his left knee. Winston's next pass found running back Mike James for a gain of 13 yards to midfield. With one second left before halftime, Winston spiked the ball to stop the clock and then heaved a Hail Mary to the end zone that fell incomplete.
Winston 2-3 for 14 yards on the drive
Winston was done at halftime, and Bucs head coach Lovie Smith commented on his NFL debut, as he was interviewed by WFLA's Dan Lucas.
"He finished strong," Smith said. "Didn't start exactly the way we wanted to, but then he threw some good balls and got us into position to get a couple of scores.
"You have to have a first game and you work through some of those things and that's what he's doing."
Tampa Bay wide receiver Vincent Jackson was pleased with Winston's performance in his debut.
"I have so much confidence in this kid," Jackson said. "I think he's going to have a great year. He's just so smart. He's picked up everything fast and he sees things on the field that a veteran sees. It's a lot of fun playing with him. We work on a lot of things and communicate each and every day in practice and we are going to continue to make big plays. He's an aggressive guy, he wants to stand there in the pocket. You can see he's not scared to stand in there and deliver the ball down the field and that's going to help us this year."
After the game, Winston discussed his first preseason game.
"It was my first NFL preseason game - it was fun," Winston said. "You have to get better every day, and getting your first real-live rush with guys not coming off you - the opportunity to play real-live football was helpful. Our goal is to get better every day. You've just got to keep playing and we turned around and did some good things."
Winston talked about the offense's success with the hurry-up offense prior to halftime where he completed 5-of-6 passes for 53 yards and rushed for his first NFL touchdown.
"We're good at playing fast," Winston said. "When we picked up the tempo, everything started rolling. The offensive line did great. Everyone around me did great. When we pick up the intensity we see what we are capable of."
Winston's Final Stats: 9-of-19 for 131 yards with 1 INT, four carries for 18 yards and a TD