Jameis Winston struggles in two quarters of play against Vikings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Jameis Winston's NFL debut couldn't have gotten off to a much slower start in Saturday night's 26-16 preseason-opening loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

Tampa Bay's rookie quarterback struggled mightily while playing the entire first half, and the Bucs weren't able to generate much offense.

"It's a starting spot," Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. "Everything that he did wrong, we'll correct it and hopefully he won't do it the next time."

The top overall pick in the draft, Winston completed nine of 19 passes for 131 yards with one interception. His first three passes were incomplete, and the only thing approaching a highlight was a 40-yard completion to Vincent Jackson. Winston also fumbled a snap.

But his biggest mistake of the night was an interception to Antone Exum that set up a Minnesota touchdown. Interceptions have been a problem for Winston, who has thrown eight so far in training camp.

"I thought Jameis starting off did some typical things that a rookie would do," Smith said. "Things didn't go exactly how we wanted to early on. But I thought he settled down and did some good things right there at the end. He threw some good balls. The plan was for him and the offensive line to play the first half, so we got in the amount of reps we wanted to get in."

Winston did lead the Bucs on a touchdown drive against Minnesota's second-team defense at the end of the second quarter. He scored on an 8-yard scramble.

"He threw some good balls at the end," Smith said. "Pretty good decisions. We'd like to have that one interception back, but I thought he threw some pretty good balls. That's what you judge your quarterback on, decision-making. For the most part, I think it was pretty good."

Winston said he views the game as a learning experience.

"You've just got to get better every day," Winston said.

He said he felt he got better as the game went along.

"You pick up the game, and you see how things are flying at you," Winston said. "You get into that mode of just playing football. I'm getting better every single play. That was my whole mentality -- to get better every single play."

Jackson offered an endorsement.

"I have so much confidence in this kid," Jackson said. "I think he's going to have a great year. He's just so smart. He's picked up everything fast, and he sees things on the field that a veteran sees. It's a lot of fun playing with him."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.