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Why the hits keep coming for Jameis Winston

Rick Stroud: Tampa Bay has allowed 30 sacks and 27 quarterback hits, in part because of a new scheme Winston hasn’t mastered.
Seattle's Bobby Wagner, right, tackles Jameis Winston on one of the 30 times the Buccaneers quarterback has been sacked this season. [SCOTT EKLUND | AP]
Published Nov. 8

TAMPA — There was a lot of talk about Jameis Winston “putting on some armor,” beefing up to about 245-250 pounds to better absorb the punishment playing in Bruce Arians’ offense.

“I feel great. I’m 240, so that’s one steak dinner away from 245,’’ Winston said.

But Winston has been tenderized. He has been sacked 30 times, which leads the NFL. On pace for 60, which would tie for ninth all-time, Winston has never been sacked more than 35 times in a season and that occurred in 2016. The Bucs quarterback also has been hit 27 other times.

Is this the way to expose the player you may want to franchise at the end of the season?

Certainly, it isn’t a surprise. Arians tries to get five eligible receivers into routes on every pass play.

Occasionally, a running back or tight end may delay his route and chip block on the pass rusher, but the defense can always bring more players than the Bucs can block.

This has resulted in some pretty high sack numbers for Arians’ quarterbacks: 41 in 2016 and 52 in 2017 with the Cardinals.

The Bucs inconsistent offensive line is certainly a factor. So are injuries. Tampa Bay yielded seven sacks in London against Carolina with starting right tackle Demar Dotson and right guard Alex Cappa out of the lineup.

Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said Winston also is partially at fault.

“I think we’ll all get better at that from a communication standpoint up front,’’ Leftwich said. “Jameis getting rid of the ball when he should get rid of the ball, guys doing what they’re supposed to outside when they’re supposed to — that’s part of the development of a new offense.”

Last week Winston recognized that the pass rush was too intense a couple plays at Seattle and just threw the ball away.

“I think we made a great step this week and continue to just help the big guys out up front (and) continue to work with those running backs on protections,” Winston said “... The past two games I’ve probably done a better job (than) I have in my whole career of just throwing the ball away.”

Even so, the Bucs offensive line isn’t happy about those sack-quarterback hit numbers. Said guard Ali Marpet said. “The system the system, but no matter what, you don’t ever want to lead the league in that.’’

Leftwich believes the sack numbers will go down as Winston and the rest of the offense become more familiar with the new system.

“There’s one thing I know about this team — when they go out and play on Sundays, it’s going to be a tough out for whoever we’re playing just by the competitiveness of the guys,” Leftwich said. “... These guys love the fight – they’re going to fight.”

Contact Rick Stroud at rstroud@tampabay.com. Follow @NFLStroud

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