Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Bucs' MVP is Jameis Winston

The biggest takeaway from the Bucs' season is they have their quarterback in Jameis Winston.

The way the season has ended, going from 6-6 to three consecutive losses entering today's finale at Carolina is disappointing, to say the least.

This team had a nice vibe about it and a chance to reach the postseason a year before projected before the wheels came off with losses to New Orleans, St. Louis and Chicago in 14 days.

You can debate the reasons for the collapse — LB Kwon Alexander's suspension for performance-enhancing drugs, injuries, turnovers, coaching — which was a big buzzkill for the organization. Clearly, after spending the past two drafts almost exclusively on offense, the Bucs need to address the other side of the ball. They particularly have to find pass rushers and cornerbacks.

Nonetheless, the NFL is all about the quarterback. Finding that piece arguably has taken this franchise 40 years. The pain may be worth the pleasure for fans.

With 283 passing yards today, Winston could join Cam Newton and Andrew Luck as the only NFL rookies to throw for 4,000 yards. Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said what has surprised him about Winston is his resiliency and toughness. Add one more this: his competitiveness.

It's also rare that any quarterback, much less a rookie, can have a five-turnover game, then go four games without committing another turnover, as Winston has done. That Winston has 22 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions — about half as many of the latter as some predicted — is remarkable considering he will have more than 500 passing attempts.

"I think I've been pretty consistent with my answers as far as Jameis Winston is concerned," coach Lovie Smith said. "He's been outstanding, about as much as you can ask for from a rookie quarterback coming into the league. (He's) a guy whose arrow is definitely pointing (up). We're going to win a lot of football games for him.

"I had high goals, hopes for him coming in, and I would definitely say he has met them. He would say, 'Maybe I've met them.' He's not going to talk an awful lot about that. He expected to come into the league and play pretty good. He has done that."

RB Doug Martin, with his 1,354 yards rushing entering today, also has had a terrific season and made Winston's job easier. But Winston is the team's most valuable player, not only this year but likely for many years to come.

Here are other observations on the season:

Best rookie: Let's exclude Winston, which makes it a tough call. Alexander was the quarterback of the defense, so it's no coincidence that the Bucs' the three-game losing streak has coincided with his four-game suspension. He'll still finish second on the team with 93 tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. The Bucs have a terrific rookie class. In order, their "best" ranking: Winston, Alexander, LT Donovan Smith, G Ali Marpet, WR Adam Humphries, CB Jude Adjei-Barimah.

Most disappointing player: It's a tie between DE George Johnson and CB Alterraun Verner. The Bucs traded a fifth-round draft pick to Detroit for Johnson and a seventh-rounder. But in 11 games he failed to record a sack, and he lost his starting job halfway through the season. Verner's days would seem numbered. He lost his starting job, moved to the slot, has only one interception and has had some huge penalties. He's due $6.75 million next season, so the production doesn't match the salary. That means he would walk away with $14 million for two seasons.

Most improved: TE Cameron Brate. He had one career catch coming into 2015, and the Harvard grad was cut by the Bucs. They got him back from the Saints' practice squad, and he has caught 22 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns.

Comeback player: It easily could be Martin, but give it to his running mate, Charles Sims. As a rookie last season, he missed the first eight games with an ankle injury and never got on track. But this season he has 1,001 yards from scrimmage.

With 283 passing yards today, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston can become just the third NFL rookie with 4,000.

DIRK SHADD | Times

With 283 passing yards today, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston can become just the third NFL rookie with 4,000.

Bucs' MVP is Jameis Winston 01/02/16 [Last modified: Saturday, January 2, 2016 7:03pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Five reasons why Kentucky can beat Florida for the first time since 1986

    College

    By Matt Baker

    GAINESVILLE — Florida's 30-game winning streak over Kentucky is one of the most impressive feats in the country.

    Florida Gators offensive lineman Martez Ivey (73) celebrates Florida Gators running back Mark Thompson's  (24) touch down in the first quarter, putting Florida on the board 6-0 during the game between the University of Florida and the University of Kentucky in Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, in Gainesville, Fla. Florida defeated Kentucky 45-7. ANDRES LEIVA   |   Times

  2. Once targeted by the Bucs, Dalvin Cook thrills for the Vikings

    Bucs

    How good would the Bucs be with running back Dalvin Cook?

    Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) slips a tackle by Steelers strong safety Sean Davis (28) to score a touchdown Sunday in Pittsburgh. [AP photo]
  3. Boxer Jake LaMotta, immortalized in 'Raging Bull,' dies at 95

    Obituaries

    MIAMI — Jake LaMotta, the former middleweight champion whose life in and out of the ring was depicted in the film Raging Bull, for which Robert DeNiro won an Academy Award, has died, his fiancee said Wednesday. He was 95.

    Jake LaMotta, retired professional boxer, shakes hands with Tampa Bay Rays third baseman Evan Longoria (3) on the field before the game between the Tampa Bay Rays and New York Yankees in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg on Sept. 15, 2015. LaMotta was on hand to sign autographs in the Ted Williams Museum.
  4. J.R. Sweezy shows what Bucs were missing

    Bucs

    By Greg Auman

    TAMPA —- Sunday's season-opening win against the Bears saw the debut of 13 Bucs, a mix of rookies and free-agent veterans.

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive guard J.R. Sweezy (73), seen at center, runs through drills during training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, July 31, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times 

  5. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs-Vikings features a battle of top rookies

    Bucs

    Greg Auman looks at how much the Bucs have changed since the last time they played the Minnesota Vikings in 2014 in our latest Cannon Fodder podcast.

    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard (80) makes a reception as Chicago Bears free safety Eddie Jackson (39) tackles him Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]