On Saturday, the Buccaneers got a tease of what will be sitting on the bench for the first three weeks of the regular season. Quarterback Jameis Winston diced the Titans up while playing through the second quarter of the game, throwing well-placed passes to an array of his receivers. Both Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson were beneficiaries, including a pretty 54-yard bomb caught by Jackson.
We also got to see a bit of vintage Jameis, which may or not be a good thing depending on your point of view. Facing 3rd and five from the Titans eight-yard line, Winston evaded a pair of tacklers and true to form, heaved a desperation pass into the end zone. Miraculously the pass was caught for a touchdown by Chris Godwin, but the decision-making remains questionable. Perhaps Winston saw the flag thrown indicating a free play? Or maybe it was his instinct kicking in. Either way, that play is hazardous in a regular season setting.
The dangerous play wasn’t nearly enough to taint the overall efficiency and strength of Winston’s night, though. Winston tossed another touchdown to rookie Justin Watson, giving him two on the night, along with 226 yards and no turnovers. That clip of yards on just 13 completions is the type of consistency pass to pass that every Bucs fan hopes to get out of Winston this season.
The Buccaneers were shorthanded at cornerback with both Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis out with injuries, so we were given an extended look at second-round rookie M.J. Stewart. The former Tar Heel has enjoyed a productive camp filled with praise from coaches and onlookers, and through two preseason games, it appears he’ll get a lot of playing time. Stewart’s biggest strengths seem to be his tenacity and versatility, both on display against the Titans.
Stewart began the night as a nickel corner but transitioned to the boundary for some of the game as well. Though his overall stats weren’t gaudy, Stewart made two noteworthy plays that the coaches will praise this week. The first was a silver lining to an explosive play the Bucs suffered to Titan running back Dion Lewis, as Stewart chased the ballcarrier down after being blocked out of it earlier, and punched the ball loose. It bounced out of bounds, but the effort was what you like to see in a preseason game.
Stewart’s best play came later in the second quarter when he chased down a Titan screen and knocked the ball free. Stewart’s play gave Jameis Winston one more shot to score a touchdown before halftime, which he delivered on a pass to…
Many scratched their heads when the Buccaneers selected a wide receiver out of Penn University in the fifth round of this year’s draft. But all throughout camp and preseason Watson has shown us why. Beyond his impressive measurables – 6’3, 212 lbs. – Watson has demonstrated strong hands and general reliability, catching seven of his eight total targets.
Watson’s first touchdown as a professional player came after Stewart’s forced fumble.
Lined up out wide, Watson sprinted down the right sideline towards the end zone. With thirteen seconds remaining in the half, Watson secured the pass from Jameis Winston in the boundary of the end zone. Both the throw and catch were brilliant, and Watson is doing his best to win the fifth wide receiver spot.