By Richard Wehrle
As we approach the tenth day of training camp the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have many questions that need to be answered. We will start to gain a little perspective when they take on the Philadelphia Eagles on Thursday August 11 at 7:00PM EDT.
The burning question in the minds of the fans is, how far can the Buccaneers go this year? Fans of every franchise are asking the same question about their team as well. I can answer this question in regards to the 2016 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Are you ready? They will go as far as Jameis Winston will take them. I know that is a generic answer, but it is the simple truth. The Bucs drafted Winston out of Florida State last year to be their quarterback of the future. So how much improvement can we expect from his rookie campaign?
Last year Winston had a very good stat line. He finished the season with 4,042 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. He had a 58.3 completion percentage and an 84.2 quarterback rating. Let’s compare that to one of his contemporaries who had similar stats last season.
Kirk Cousins finished the season with 4,166 passing yards, 29 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. This is where the numbers start to differ, Cousins completed a whopping 69.8 percent of his passes and had a 101.6 quarterback rating. The difference between these quarterback is in red zone efficiency. While Cousins completed 63.3 percent of his passes inside the 20 yard line Winston only completed 40 percent. Cousins tossed 22 touchdown passes inside the red zone compared to 15 for Winston.
As you can see in order to have success this year as a team Winston needs to step up his red zone efficiency. Will he be able to avoid mistakes inside the red zone that cost his team last season? He only had one interception inside of the red zone but the 40 percent completion percentage inside the 20 yard line simply will not cut it this year.
In my opinion Winston needs to become more of a gunslinger, like Hall of Fame quarterback Bret Favre, when he enters into the red zone. Will he make some mistakes if he does this? Of course he will, he is still a second year quarterback in the league.
He simply needs to trust himself more and take more chances; because chances lead to points on the board, something this team is in desperate need of. Winston showed last year he has all of the tools to be a great quarterback in this league. The question remains, will he be able to get out of his own head in the red zone? If he can accomplish this I think this team can be sneaky good and almost ready to take the next step.
The Bucs will still be chasing the Carolina Panthers this season. Things could change if the Bucs can capitalize on their opportunities though. Needless to say it all starts and ends with the arm, and decision making ability, of their very talented quarterback Jameis Winston.
Cover photo: Aug 24, 2015; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) drops back to throw during the first quarter of a preseason NFL football game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports