Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston has the makings of an MVP candidate, according to Super Bowl-winning coach and Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden. He looked the part early against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday night, leading a scoring drive on the opening possession for the second straight week and completing passes to nine different receivers.
But Winston failed to follow his own cardinal rule: protect the football.
He got lucky in the second quarter when an interception was ruled a fumble, but that was a rookie mistake. He was being pulled down from behind by a defender, and rather than just take the sack, he tossed the ball into the air. The frustration was evident on coach Dirk Koetter's face, as it was when the offense unsuccessfully ran a two-minute drill. It resulted in an illegal shift, a sack given up by Leonard Wester and a holding call on J.R. Sweezy, forcing a second-and-32.
QB depth chart: In two quarters, Winston completed 21 of 29 passes for 196 yards, with no touchdowns and no interceptions. With Ryan Griffin nursing a sprained AC joint in his shoulder, Ryan Fitzpatrick came in next. He did a much better job of protecting the football this week. But like Winston, he had a tidy pocket to work with.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Bucs looked … significantly better than their Jaguars counterparts and significantly better than how they practiced. This was a much more level playing field Monday and Tuesday. The Jaguars' pass rush was practically a nonfactor Thursday. The Bucs' defense was aided by Blake Bortles' inaccuracy. Still, the Bucs left scoring opportunities on the table.
One (or two) reasons to be concerned: In what Bucs fans would call a cruel twist of fate, kicker Nick Folk missed an extra point in the first quarter. It was blocked by Calais Campbell, so it wasn't self-inflicted, but his next miss was a 47-yarder that sailed wide right in the fourth quarter. Roberto Aguayo was booted last week after he missed a PAT and a field goal. Even though Koetter said it was time to "get behind Folk," might general manager Jason Licht's earlier comment about the Bucs kicker possibly not even being on their roster hold true? In the second quarter, Folk made field goals of 35 and 29 yards.
That guy could start: This isn't a campaign to make him a starter, but Adarius Glanton had a solid game. Really solid. Glanton led the Bucs with six tackles, a sack that came on a blitz and two tackles for a loss. The Bucs like him as a backup at weakside and middle linebacker, and he gives them depth at the position, something they haven't really had the past few years. "He showed up big in two huge plays. We're so fortunate to have him because he can play all the spots," Koetter said. "He's played well. He's just behind two really good guys [Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander]."
Rookie watch: After being rendered catchless last week, tight end O.J. Howard caught two passes for 28 yards. Starting at strongside linebacker for an injured Devante Bond, Kendell Beckwith finished with four tackles and two tackles for a loss. Safety Justin Evans registered two tackles and a pass breakup. Wide receiver Chris Godwin had two catches for 30 yards. Jeremy McNichols had 11 carries for 32 yards. Linebacker Riley Bullough had five tackles. Cornerback Maurice Fleming had two tackles and a big pass breakup on third-and-1 to keep the Jaguars out of the end zone with 1:37 to go.
Douggernaut: The Bucs successfully marched down the field on the opening drive largely because of running back Doug Martin, who finished the game with five rushes for 30 yards and a touchdown. He also had two catches for 11 yards. His touchdown on the opening drive was the only one of the day for the Bucs. Martin knows he's not guaranteed a job when he returns from a three-game suspension, but he certainly did his part to leave a lasting impression.