The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are about to take the field for the first time with Jameis Winston as their quarterback on Sunday, and we're all looking forward to seeing how he'll do. Including NFL analyst Greg Cosell, whose insight is always valuable. Cosell joined Jonathan Hutton and Chad Witrow on 104.5 The Zone in Nashville, Tennessee yesterday, and they obviously talked a lot about Winston, Marcus Mariota and Sunday's game between the Bucs and Tennessee Titans.
"I think that Winston is a pure pocket quarterback, who's not a quick-footed guy, he needs a good offensive line which he does not have right now. But I think that there's things that you liked on film with Winston, same kinds of things you saw in college. He's tough in the pocket, he'll stand and deliver, he's willing to pull the trigger.
"I think when you watched him in the preseason you saw him struggle a bit just understanding some coverages at the safety level. He's had a tendency to stare down receivers a bit. But I thought he showed a lot of resilience under intense pressure. You know he's a classic quarterback right now that he's very solid when the play-design works, which you can say about a lot of quarterbacks obviously, but he's a young quarterback. Overall I would say there was more good than bad."
None of that is especially rare or problematic for a rookie quarterback. Cosell likes what he's seen out of Jameis Winston so far, but seems unconvinced that the Bucs will get him in position to be productive. Mostly because of their offensive line play.
"I think Tampa Bay will be a very conventional NFL offense. They're gonna line up in base personnel and try to run the ball. That's where it's all going to start, and therefore run defense out of your base 3-4 becomes critical because you must put Tampa Bay behind the sticks. You have to get them into second-and-eights and third-and-eights and those situations, where Dick LeBeau can use his pressure concepts and his different looks and get pressure. It's not only on Winston, it's on an offensive line that really had a hard time in the preseason and I think likely is starting two rookies at left tackle and right guard. So I think that stopping the run out of the base 3-4 is where it all starts for this week for Tennessee's defense."
And targeting that weak offensive line is exactly how Cosell thinks the Titans need to and will get Winston to play below his potential.
"You must get consistent pressure on [Winston]. They're going to try to throw the ball on first down, because they'll do that out of base personnel and formations that can max protect, because when he can get back in the pocket comfortably that's when he's at his best and then the big receivers become a factor on the perimeter. But when you get him in situations where you have your nickel package on the field, you must pressure him. His efficiency drops dramatically under pressure."
All of that sounds a lot more pessimistic than I would be. A large part of the Bucs' issues protecting Winston in the preseason was recognition of blitzes and movement, and that's something that should be fixed -- or at least less of a problem -- in the regular season, as the Bucs will actually gameplan for the blitzes they'll be facing. And Dirk Koetter knows what's coming: he faced a LeBeau defense last year in week 15 of the regular season, with Matt Ryan having a pretty solid day (26/37 for 310, two touchdowns, one interception, no sacks) behind a terrible offensive line.
You can listen to Cosell's full audio here.