TAMPA, Fla. -- With the return of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers finally have the offensive weapons for rookie quarterback Jameis Winston that they envisioned when the season started.
In addition to Seferian-Jenkins, Winston has receivers Mike Evans and Vincent Jackson; running backs Doug Martin, who is second in the NFL in rushing; and Charles Sims, a change-of-pace, third-down back.
If you include emerging tight end Cameron Brate, Winston has four receivers listed at 6-foot-5 to throw to.
Jackson returned to the lineup three weeks ago after missing three games because of a knee injury. Seferian-Jenkins missed nine games with a shoulder injury. He returned last weekend and made three catches for 31 yards against Atlanta.
"I was super excited to get out there and play," Seferian-Jenkins said. "Football is what I love. I love being around these guys and help support these guys any way I can. Being on the football field was a big step to doing that. I was a little rusty out there, a little anxious, pressed a little too much. But I'm happy to be back out there."
His size and ability to play in-line or off-line creates mismatches that can open up a Tampa Bay offense that has been performing pretty well. Winston is tied for eighth in the league with 42 completions of 20 yards or more.
"I wouldn't say I'm the final piece -- I think everyone in this group on offense collectively is part of that final piece," Seferian-Jenkins said. "We're excited. We got four games left. The most important thing is going against New Orleans this week. This is a big game for us. It's a big game for them."
Tampa Bay is 6-6 and in seventh place in the NFC, one game behind the Seattle Seahawks and two games behind the Minnesota Vikings for the final two playoff spots in the conference. While the Bucs are ninth in total offense, the team is just 24th in passing. Now the offense has all of its components.
"It's good to get him back out there," said coach Lovie Smith of Seferian-Jenkins. "We've been waiting awhile. The [two] games he played [before the injury], he was a factor.
"We keep saying he's going to be a great football player when he's on the football field," Smith said. "Now we have him back out there."