The Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t close to being a playoff contender yet, but they are far from being the laughingstock they were a year ago.
In other words, don’t expect the Buccaneers to get the first overall pick for a second consecutive year.
They have already won more games this season (three) than all of last year (two), and first-round pick Jameis Winston is getting better every week.
Since a four-interception game in Week 4 against Carolina, Winston has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions over a four-game stretch. He has also rushed for a score in each of the past two weeks.
“He’s becoming our leader,” center Joe Hawley said, according to The Orlando Sentinel.
Added receiver Vincent Jackson on the Buccaneers radio network: “To see the plays that he’s making here now that maybe he wasn’t making in training camp and in the preseason, it’s night and day. That amount of improvement so quickly, I’m not saying he wasn’t ready and we weren’t excited about him then. But what he’s doing now, I mean, it’s like he’s doing it in his sleep.
“He’s matured and progressed as just a confident and knowledgeable quarterback, you know, in a matter of what, five, six, seven weeks. It’s very impressive. Again, not even close to a finished product. I think the sky’s the limit for this guy for his ability to just ad-lib.”
And, with Winston’s growth, it seems like just a matter of time before the Buccaneers put together a winning streak. That might not bode well for the reeling Dallas Cowboys going into Sunday’s game.
Tampa Bay has yet to win consecutive games in the Lovie Smith era, and the Bucs continue to fight that battle after a 32-18 loss to the New York Giants last week.
But the Buccaneers know the only way to get it changed is to have another opportunity, which they will get should they beat the Cowboys.
And, fortunately for the Bucs, winning after losses hasn’t been an issue.
“We’ve learned how to lose a game and fight back and win the next one,” veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said, via ESPN. “We have to learn how to win a game and keep fighting and then win the next one. And that can be frustrating, but that’s something we’re trying to figure out as a whole.”
Added Smith, via ESPN: “There’s a missing piece. Exactly what it is [I don’t know]. I want to get back to that position again. Right now, what we have figured out is how to have a disappointing loss and come back and win the following week. First step for us is to get back to that place [to win consecutive games].”
▪ Former Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans caught a career-high eight passes for 152 yards against the Giants but also had six drops. Said Evans: “I just want to win, and I cost my team big time.”
▪ The Bucs’ defense has 15 takeaways this season, tied for seventh-most in the league and almost four times as many as the Cowboys’ defense has.
▪ The Bucs had plenty of red-zone issues offensively against the Giants, scoring just nine points on three first-half drives that reached the New York 10 or deeper. Said Winston: “It has to matter more to me, scoring in the red zone, so I will never say it’s anyone’s fault. The fault is not getting [touchdowns] in the red zone, and I take that onto me to get us [touchdowns] in the red zone. I am the quarterback.”
He said it
“I haven’t been this frustrated with myself in a while. But I am. There’s not a fan, coach or a media member who can be as frustrated with myself as I am. And I understand that me being a franchise player, I have to do more. I understand that. And that’s where a lot of my frustration comes. That’s where a lot of my frustration was [Sunday]. I know I have to be better.” — McCoy, who has four tackles and no sacks over the past three weeks, via ESPN.