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Working on Jameis Winston’s deep ball

NFL: Preseason-Miami Dolphins at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers built their offense on the running game and mid-range passes last year, which worked fairly well. One thing missing from that repertoire: the deep ball. In an ESPN Q&A, Vaughn McClure points out that Winston completed just six of 25 passes traveling at least 30 yards through the air. A few more hits could have made the difference between Lovie Smith’s firing and his staying on — so perhaps some of you aren’t too hurt he missed those passes.

Still, it’d be nice if Winston and his receivers could fix the deep ball this offseason. Dirk Koetter has mentioned before that the deep ball is something they’re working on, which is good — not least because Koetter consistently makes the deep ball a big part of his offense. But also because that deep ball is what the Bucs’ receivers do best, at least when they’re playing at their best. Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans are big-bodied, long-striding receivers who can run past most cornerbacks in the league in a long sprint — and then outjump them for the ball.

That didn’t happen much last year. Evans dropped a few too many balls, he and Winston sometimes weren’t on the same page, but more often than not, Winston just missed that deep ball. Usually because it was underthrown, a cardinal sin because it forces a receiver to stop and gives defensive backs who were already beaten the chance to get back in it. If your receiver is having issues with his hands, making his catches more difficult than they need to be is going to lead to disaster more often than not.

Part of the issue must have been that Winston and Evans didn’t have much time to work together prior to the season. Winston came in as a rookie, having to get acclimated to the team and working with the first team only part of the time for most of the offseason. Then Evans suffered an injury that kept him out of the final two preseason games and the first regular season game, limiting their time together even more.

That shouldn’t be a problem this year. And hopefully, that means we’ll see a lot more successful deep passes in 2016. Preferably ones that don’t lead to receivers getting caught at the one-yard line.