Late last month, news broke that Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback Jameis Winston would be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season due to a violation of the NFL’s personal conduct policy.
Winston met with the media for the first time since the suspension and said:
“I’m focused and moving forward. That’s all I can do. I’ve grown and learned from this situation, so it’s a learning experience you know. I’ve worked hard in this community since I’ve gotten here and I’m going to continue to work hard on and off the field.”
There’s no question the Bucs’ 5-11 record in 2017 was a major disappointment following a 9-7 record the year prior. Much of the league expected Tampa Bay to build off their success in 2016 and compete for the NFC South division title. Instead, they were battling for a top 10 pick in the draft. The suspension of Winston won’t help matters in hopes of improving on their win-loss total, but it isn’t necessarily out of the question.
Last year, the Buccaneers signed veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a short-term deal which gave them a solid, experienced backup behind Winston. Fitzpatrick started three games for the Buccaneers last year, in which he posted a 2-1 record while tossing for 1,103 yards, seven touchdowns, and three interceptions.
So the question arises, “Can the Buccaneers survive without Jameis Winston?”
I’d like to say yes, but it won’t be easy. The first three games are at New Orleans, then they will host defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, and then the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3. If they can somehow manage to win one of those games, they stand a chance. Win all three, now you’re talking, does Fitzpatrick keep the job when Winston returns?
In all likelihood, Winston will retain the starting job. The only way Fitzpatrick will keep it is if the team is 3-0 and the offense is gelling under his control. Even then, Winston is the future of this franchise and I doubt they want to give up on him this early in his maturation process.
For the Buccaneers to find any success they will have to run the ball efficiently. Which means Jacquizz Rodgers will have to improve on his 15.3 rushing yards per game. Rookie Ronald Jones II (USC) and veteran Charles Sims will also be in the mix for the Tampa run game. Fitzpatrick has been known to turn the ball over quite a bit, so there will be a major emphasis on the run game which has not proven much.
It’s safe to say, the Buccaneers may be heading for a revamped, rebuild.