Examining life without Buccaneers franchise quarterback Jameis Winston on the field.
In his two years in the league, Jameis Winston has not missed a single game starting all 32 contests as the Buccaneers starting signal caller. With how violent of a game football is, that is quite the accomplishment to be able to say you were out there for every game competing with your team. Not every coach has the luxury of having that sort of consistency from the quarterback position. To go even further, not every coach even has a starting caliber quarterback to begin with.
Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game and the Bucs need to be ready for any obstacles that come about. In the last two years, they had arguably one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league with Mike Glennon. He was viewed as one of the Bucs building blocks before the team drafted Winston with the first pick in 2015. He rightfully so chased the money and signed a 3 year, $45 million contract with the Chicago Bears over the off-season. The Bucs decided to replace him with the veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick on a cheap 1 year, $3 million pact.
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In Fitzpatrick’s favor, he hasn’t played with this much talent on offense throughout his whole career. The closest offense he’s ran that is even remotely close in talent level to this team is his 2015 New York Jets. Coincidentally, that was his best offensive season as a pro. Fitzpatrick passed for a career high 3,905 yards, career high 31 touchdowns, and completed 59.6% of his passes. It was a storybook season that ended in devastating fashion, with Fitzpatrick throwing three picks in a Week 17 win and you’re in game against the Buffalo Bills.
If Fitzpatrick is needed to come in for a spot start or two, Dirk Koetter and the rest of the staff should have full confidence that he will be able to keep the ball rolling. He has seen it all and has enough experience to gain the confidence in the rest of the offense as well. It might seem like not a big deal but having your teammates believe in you can go a long way. Fitzpatrick has also been classified as a “gunslinger”, a player who takes risks by always trying to make big plays instead of simply throwing the ball away. In only two years Winston has gotten that same comparison, which might actually be a good thing in this offense.
When you have arguably the best deep threat of the last ten years on your roster in DeSean Jackson, you want to challenge the secondary by throwing the ball downfield. Third round pick Chris Godwin is another deep threat that will stretch the field capable of running by a defense. Even more important, big targets such as Mike Evans, O.J Howard, and Cameron Brate are the exact type of receivers that Fitzpatrick likes. Think of the damage he did in 2015 with fellow big receivers like Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Being able to throw the ball in a position where he has a chance to go up and get it over the defensive player is something Fitzpatrick excels at. The back shoulder throw is his favorite.
In a worst case scenario with Fitzpatrick starting a lot more games than anticipated cause of a Winston injury, I truly believe that he can succeed. With all the weapons around him, i might even go as far to predict a 2015 “Fitzmagic” like season. He’s obviously not an elite quarterback by any means but in this offense with this group of guys around him, if Winston went down I don’t think that you can count out the Bucs that quickly. Hopefully the Bucs will not have to see if Fitzpatrick is up to it because of a strong 16 game season from Winston. If it has to come down to him though, I trust Fitzpatrick to forget about last year and to ball out.