It was the debut of Buccaneers’ rookie quarterback Jameis Winston and as expected, his night featured several challenges.
The 21-year-old quarterback didn’t come out throwing right away. The Bucs ran the ball four straight times before facing a passing situation in third-and-4. In his first pass attempt, out of shotgun, Winston had his eyes set on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He sailed the ball well over his intended target — who was double covered.
His misfortunes continued on their second drive as he once again had another pass attempt sail over his target, this time it was Mike Evans. On the ensuing play, Winston pass was interrupted at the line of scrimmage when right tackle Demar Dotson struggled to keep Minnesota’s pass rusher at bay who got a paw on Winston’s arm as he threw the football.
Later in the half, Winston overthrew Evans again and would be intercepted by Minnesota’s Antone Exum.
But Winston’s night wasn’t all filled with sour grapes. On Tampa Bay’s third drive, Winston faced a third-and-long. It was this play that showcased the rookie signal caller’s true ability as he hit receiver Vincent Jackson deep for a 40-yard gain. What made this such a great throw? He was hit as he threw the ball down field. And Jackson never had to break stride. He followed that up with a design rollout and hit receiver Louis Murphy on an out-route for 14 yards.
Winston would eventually settle in, albeit against many of the Vikings reserves. Nearing the end of the first half, Winston orchestrated the hurry-up offense beautifully as he completed four straight pass attempts to tight end Luke Stocker, running back Bobby Rainey, and two to receiver Louis Murphy. The drive was capped off by Winston taking it in himself from eight yards out for a touchdown.
The first overall pick finished the night 9-for-19 for 131 yards and one interception. He rushed four times for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Overall, Winston played as expected for his first bit of live NFL action, which was average. Still, he showed on some occasions why the Bucs thought so highly of him. Winston has the smarts and the ability to shake off any rust. Improvement is expected his next time out.
During the half, head coach Lovie Smith talked about his quarterback’s ability to bounce back.
“Yes, that’s the type of player he is,” Smith said. “He’s thrown good passes through camp. He’s going to throw an awful lot for us this year. You have to have a first game, you have to work through some of those things, and that’s what he’s doing.”
Receiver Vincent Jackson also spoke during the half and let it be known that his confidence in Winston did not change after Saturday night’s outing.
“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.”