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Jameis Winston’s life could get interesting without Adam Humphries

John Romano: It’s only been one game since Humphries left as a free agent, but it’s hard not to wonder how Jameis Winston will respond without his security blanket.
Scenes such as this, with Adam Humphries and Jameis Winston celebrating a touchdown while Mike Evans and Chris Godwin look on, were common in Tampa Bay in 2018. Now, with Humphries moving on to Tennessee, Winston needs another go-to receiver in the slot. MONICA HERNDON | Times [MONICA HERNDON | Monica Herndon]
Published Sep. 11

TAMPA — The idea was to give Jameis Winston everything a quarterback could possibly want this season. Almost as if the Bucs were following a how-to kit to construct their very own franchise star.

Bring in a noted quarterback guru to be his coach? Check.

Give the left tackle a fat contract to protect his blind side? Check.

Pay him a little more than Matt Ryan and a little less than Tom Brady? Check.

Make sure his security blanket is securely in place? Oops.

MORE BUCS: Another fine Sunday ruined

Well, maybe Winston will still be fine. Maybe there are enough other options in the Tampa Bay offense, and maybe he has reached a level of maturity that he can do without his little buddy.

But doesn’t it seem like Winston was missing Adam Humphries on Sunday?

They were once a pretty good pair, Winston and Humphries. Mind you, we’re not talking Montana-Rice or Aikman-Irvin. We’re not even suggesting they were among the top duos of today’s NFL. But there was an obvious comfort level between them, particularly in third-down situations.

And considering how committed the Bucs are to Winston in this make-or-break season, it is curious that they allowed one of his favorite targets to slip out of town.

Turns out, Adam Humphries may miss Jameis Winston too. In his regular season debut with Tennessee on Sunday, Humphries caught only one pass for five yards. MATT ROURKE | AP Photo [MATT ROURKE | AP]

By now, you probably know Humphries signed a four-year, $36 million free agent contract with Tennessee in the off-season. You are probably aware the Bucs were in a salary cap crunch, and you might even think that type of investment is a little pricey for a slot receiver.

All in all, you can make a good case for letting Humphries leave.

Except for his value to the franchise’s would-be savior.

You see, Humphries wasn’t designed to be a huge part of Tampa Bay’s offense even under Dirk Koetter. When Ryan Fitzpatrick was throwing the ball, Humphries was his fifth-favorite target in 2018. A little more than 10 percent of Fitzpatrick’s passes were thrown in his direction.

But when Winston was in the pocket, Humphries was neck-and-neck with Mike Evans as the No. 1 target. More than 20 percent of Winston’s passes went to Humphries. And because they were typically shorter routes, Winston completed a higher percentage of passes when throwing to Humphries.

All of which may be forgotten if Winston finds his groove against Carolina this week.

But if Winston continues to struggle, you can count on hearing about this again.

Tight ends O.J. Howard (left) and Cameron Brate could very well turn into Jameis Winston's favorite targets on third down. Both battled injuries last season but have the ability and size to make plays in the middle of the field. [Times files]

Of course, part of the issue is that Bruce Arians brought a different type of offense with him to Tampa Bay, and a small, shifty receiver such as Humphries did not appear to have much value in this scheme.

The Bucs are carrying more tight ends, who can help as blockers, and the burden for catching short-range passes has shifted to the guys in the backfield. Running backs were the target on nearly one-third of the passes thrown by Winston against the 49ers, which is a much higher percentage than last year.

In essence, Winston is having to learn to look for different receivers in different places than what he has been accustomed to the past few years.

“Every game is a learning experience,’’ Arians said of Winston’s performance Sunday. “Obviously, there were some plays in there (where Winston does) not quite know the offense well enough yet to (hit) second, third and fourth guys.’’

Does that mean Sunday was a blip? As he gets more comfortable with this offense, will Winston hit the open receivers with more ease?

You would certainly think so. The question is how long it takes, and how much of the season is lost in the process.

The connection between quarterbacks and receivers goes a lot deeper than squiggly lines drawn in a playbook. There is a bond, a trust, an intuition that transcends the normal route. And it takes time to build.

“There’s a lot more that goes into that relationship besides running a route,’’ said receiver Chris Godwin, who had Tampa Bay’s only offensive touchdown on Sunday. “You have different adjustments based on coverages, the timing can be different, you have different concepts based on certain reads. And there’s a progression to all of this.

“You don’t just say 'Run this route and I’ll throw it to you,’ because you have defenses trying to stop you and they get paid a lot of money and are very good at what they do.’’

There is no doubt Winston has weapons to choose from. There’s Evans and Godwin at receiver. O.J. Howard and Cameron Brate at tight end. Peyton Barber and Dare Ogunbowale out of the backfield.

But there is also no Humphries for Winston to lean on.

Now, chances are, it didn’t have an effect in Sunday’s loss to San Francisco.

But that possibility is worth considering as the season continues.

John Romano can be reached at Follow @romano_tbtimes.

Bucs Preview 2019

A look ahead at Bruce Arians’ first year in Tampa Bay and a critical season for Jameis Winston and the Buccaneers.


  1. Free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick participates in a workout for NFL football scouts and media, Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019, in Riverdale, Ga. TODD KIRKLAND  |  AP
    The Bucs aren’t among the teams reported to have attended after a late venue change as the QB and NFL trade accusations.
  2. Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans could soon reach an NFL milestone that only Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy Moss has attained. It could happen Sunday against the Saints. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Rick Stroud The Bucs receiver could join his idol by eclipsing 1,000 receiving yards for the sixth straight year
  3. Since he entered the NFL in 2012, no one has made more solo tackles than Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Romano | He has been a tackling savant for eight years, but the Bucs’ constant losing has meant David has never gotten the credit he deserves here and elsewhere.
  4. In his wins, Jameis Winston has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2.3. In his losses, he has a ratio of 1.2. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay has won in only 24 of his starts. Here are the defining characteristics of those wins. (Hint: Winston plays better, but even that’s not enough.)
  5. Bucs receiver Mike Evans (left) has averaged only 3.4 catches and 30.1 yards in five games against Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore (right). Evans was held without a catch when last they met in New Orleans on Oct. 6, but Lattimore is out for the Saints' 1 p.m. game against the Bucs Sunday at Raymond James Stadium. HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Tampa Bay-New Orleans predictions: Here’s the Tampa Bay Times staff picks.
  6. Fans turn out for the season opener of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers against the San Francisco 49ers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019 in Tampa.  MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE  |  Times
    Two teams are keeping the Bucs out of the NFL’s attendance basement. One is winless and the other plays in a 30,000-seat soccer stadium.
  7. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has had plenty to say to NFL officials this season. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Rick Stroud: The Bucs coach has a colorful — we mean blue — way of getting his point across to NFL officials
  8. Former Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, shown in this 2010 file photo, had his own Myles Garrett-type, helmet-swinging incident in a 2009 Bucs practice. ZUPPA, CHRIS  |  St. Petersburg Times
    A volatile defense back took out a teammate bystander in 2009 during a helmet-swinging altercation in practice.
  9. FILE - In this Dec. 4, 2016, file photo, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick warms up before an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears. Spike Lee said on Instagram Sunday, March 19, 2017, that it was "fishy" that Kaepernick, now a free agent, hadn't been signed." (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File) PAPM107 AP
    The Bucs coach said he could see the former 49ers quarterback play again in the NFL in “the right system.” From his words, don’t expect it to be the Bucs.
  10. Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Carlton Davis (33) and free safety Jordan Whitehead (31) celebrate after a play against the Tennessee Titans in the second half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) MARK ZALESKI  |  AP
    Bucs-Saints: After waiving Vernon Hargreaves, they will have some experience in the lineup against New Orleans