Are the Bucs utilizing Kellen Winslow correctly?

One of the bigger moves the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made this off-season was to acquire Kellen Winslow from the Cleveland Browns.  We essentially drafted him with our second pick, and given his productivity, it would seem to be a good  "pick."  Though the knocks on K2 are obvious (injury-prone, attitude problem, selfish, can't ride a bike), he brings an obvious presence to the middle of the field and fits into the prototype of a receiving tight end.

But are the Bucs prepared to utilize him to his strengths?

Almost immediately upon coming over to Tampa, the Bucs ponied up a pretty nice contract for Winslow, a 6 year, $36.1 million dollar deal, including approximately $20.1 million in guarantees for a guy who hasn't seen many full season (1 in 5 years, 12+ games in 2 of 5 years).  This would lead me to believe that Morris, Jagodzinski and the entire organization had a way to utilize Winslow as a featured player in the offense. 

To take alook at the numbers, I'm going to focus on the last three yeasr (2006-2008) since he only played 2 games in the previous 2 years to that (2004, 2005).  His numbers are pretty spectacular for a tight end.  Over the 3 year period, he caught 214 passes (high of 89, average of 71) for 2,409 yards (high of 1,106, average of 803 yards) for 11 touchdowns.  The touchdown numbers are a bit light, but I'll chalk that up to the system he was playing in, and the team he was playing for.  All in all, some solid numbers.

To go a bit further, let's look at some of his advanced stats, courtesy of Football Outsiders.

Year
G DYAR Rank YAR Rank DVOA Rank VOA Rank
2008 10 -23 35 -31 35 -11.50% 32 -13.00% 33
2007 16 78 14 85 13 0.80% 24 1.50% 24
2006 16 118 4 111 5 7.90% 12 6.90% 14

Before I even get into the analysis, it looks like the Bucs acquired a player on the decline here.  After posting superb numbers in 2006, his positional ranking and values have fallen witha pretty sharp decline.  But we'll touch on this a bit later.

DYAR, as a refresher, is Defense-Adjusted Yards Over Replacement, or how any player would perform over a "replacement level" player at that position.  Positive number means they contribute X number of yards more than a replacement player and a negative means they are performing worse than the replacement.  We can see that Winslow was 118 yards better than a replacement level player in 2006, putting him 4th (positional ranking only).  Since '06, he's fallen to a point where in 2008, a replacement level player would have netted more yards in the situation.  (YAR provides a similar look, but is not adjusted for defenses)

DVOA or Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average can be recapped as

DVOA breaks down every single play of the NFL season to see how much success offensive players achieved in each specific situation compared to the league average in that situation, adjusted for the strength of the opponent.

We see the same thing, a sharp decline from 2006 to 2008.  You can look at this one of two ways.  One, Winslow is not as good as people think.  His bravado and chest thumping lead to more Sportscenter references, thus he gets hyped more.  Or two, his declining numbers are a product of playing on a Cleveland team that has seen no stability at quarterback, an offense that is stagnant, and a renewed focus on the running game. 

All of this leads to great information for another post, did the Bucs overpay for Winslow, but as Mark McGwire would say, "I'm not here to talk about the past."  I want to look at how the Bucs plan to utilize Winslow. 

We've seen three games in the preseason and Winslow has one more reception than I do.  He has one catch for 5 yards in the first game.  That's it.  I was a bit skeptical of the move to begin with, based on coach Jags history of offense (run, run, run, play action, run) and wondered if a new wrinkle or two would be thrown in.  I'm well aware we're only in the preseason and coaches typically don't spill all the beans in meaningless games, but thus far, Winslow has been utilized like a John Gilmore would be, to block and run short routes.

I've watched all three games, having attended the home game.  I don't claim to see all or know all, but I can't recall a deep route, a seam route, or any type of 10+ yard route for Winslow.  This baffles me.  You bring in a player for a second round pick who, when healthy, has been fairly productive, but you won't allow him to get out of the backfield.  Seems curious.

I don't know if Winslow has been slow to pick up the playbook (that rumor started in OTA's), if he is going half speed to make sure he doesn't get hurt, if the coaches aren't showing their hands yet, or if he's lost a half step.  I'm obviously hoping as a Bucs fan that Jags and Morris are just holding him back until it counts. 

The concerns are the structure of the offense.  I've seen the tight end best used on playction bootlegs, where the tight ends stays to block and then either runs a corner route if he is on the side of the boot, or a mid-level drag if he starts on the non-boot side.  I don't forsee Leftwich doing much boot-legging on the field, so that throws that play out.  If the plan is to run 30 times a game, Winslow will be in blocking and taking more of a beating than a receiver.  (Let's not forget, Morris and Jags both have said they see Winslow as their #2 WR). 

Sure, he can still run routes on a typical 3, 5, or 7 step dropback, same for a regular play action pass, but based on what we've seen thus far, the strengths of our starting quarterback and starting offense, I'm not sold that Winslow will be correctly used as either a top end tight end, or a $36 million dollar man.  The blocking portion could be done by any league average tight end and based on his route tree thus far, number of passes his direction and overall numbers (1 catch, 5 yards) it would seem that either we overpaid, overvalued, underutilized Winslow or are saving it all.  I guess they don't want to wear him out in the preseason, since Winslow's legs half an obvious expiration date.

What do you think?  Removing any thoughts about Winslow as a player, do you think Jags will use him as areceviing threat based on what we've seen so far?

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