On the day after the Buccaneers fired third-year coach DirK Koetter, general manager Jason Licht met with the media to discuss the coaching search, but also revealed a very important piece to “the 2019 Buccaneer puzzle.” No matter who the new coach is, quarterback Jameis Winston will be brought back for next season.
The announcement was not completely unexpected, as Winston finished the season as a starter and at times played well, even though the Buccaneers lost their remaining four games. Also, with Winston only being 24 years of age and the Buccaneers still having the fifth year option on his rookie contract, it makes sense for them to give him one more season with a new coaching staff.
However, this was the first time that anyone with any authority to definitively said that Winston will be back.
GM Jason Licht is live at the podium for his press conference https://t.co/C5Kv7URegC
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) December 31, 2018
Licht conveyed the obvious, that the Glazers made their decision on a coaching change mostly based on the lack of winning over the course of the last two years. Koetter was 5 and 11 in both 2017 and in 2018. He was directly asked whether he had been concerned for his own job and about still being in charge for the Glazer family after this year’s dismal finish and responded, “I feel very fortunate to still be standing here and leading the organization.”
Licht was also asked about whether the hiring of a new head coach might be complicated, if that coach was not interested in bringing Winston back for next season? He repeated that Winston would be back at quarterback to the play for the new coach they hire for 2019.
While Winston’s contract option is for nearly 21 million dollars next season, it does by time for the Glazer family, Licht and the new coach to determine what to do long-term at the quarterback position.
Winston began the season with a three-game NFL suspension for the personal conduct policy violation in March of 2016. He came off the bench to start 3 games in the middle of the year going 1-2 before being benched, again. He replaced backup Ryan Fitzpatrick for good in the starting lineup for the Buccaneers six remaining games.
They won the first two over San Francisco and Carolina but dropped the remaining four games, including Sunday’s finale defeat to the Atlanta Falcons.
Dating back to last season Winston’s record as a starter is 6 – 16. He also has lost his last 13 road starts dating back to the end of the 2016 season.
Clearly, Winston has to deliver more wins this upcoming season or his time in Tampa Bay will be up.
And once Licht, who has had only one winning season in five years in Tampa Bay, makes the coaching hire, if the Bucs aren’t winning next season, his future may be in jeopardy as well.
Bucs WR Mike Evans still not practicing
The Bucs were back on the practice field Wednesday morning getting ready for their third preseason game on Friday night with the Cleveland Browns at Raymond James Stadium. However, once again, they are without their top receiver, Mike Evans, who remains sidelined with an injury.
Buccaneers beat reporter for The Athletic, Greg Auman, tweeted that Evans was not out on the practice field during the portion that is open to the media:
Mike Evans not practicing today means Mike Evans isn't playing Friday, and he's not playing next week, which means he'll finish the preseason without a catch. He's as known a commodity as the Bucs have on their roster though.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 21, 2019
Evans pulled up during a drill in Sunday’s practice and head coach Bruce Arians made mention of the injury on Monday:
“Mike tweaked yesterday…it’s nothing serious,” Arians told the media.
It is reportedly a leg injury to Evans’ quadriceps that is hampering him.
The Bucs are not required to talk about injuries, much less the severity of them, at this stage. And, it’s not believed that there will be any further updates on Evans this week.
However, it’s easy to conclude the Tampa Bay will not risk playing him in the third preseason game and is Auman tweeted, the starters never play in the fourth preseason game which will be next Thursday in Dallas.
So clearly, Tampa Bay is resting and rehabbing Evans for the season opener with the 49ers.
Evans, a Pro Bowl wide receiver from a year ago, is the top target of QB Jameis Winston. A year ago he caught for a career high 1,524 yards and also career high 17.7 avg with 8 TDs.
Evans had 86 receptions, which were the second most of his five year career, in 2018, and he’s one of three receivers in NFL history to have 1,000+ receiving yards in each of his first five seasons. Hall of Famer, Randy Moss and A.J. Green are the other two.
Evans previously dealt with a hamstring injury in the 2015 preseason and missed the season opener with Tennessee but returned the following week. However, he’s been very durable since then, playing in 47 of the 48 games the last three years, having missed only a 2017 game while suspended for his role in a fight against the Saints.
This info comes on Evans’ birthday, as he turns just 26 today.
Bucs RB Ronald Jones back at Tuesday practice
Bucs fans can exhale on the knee injury for running back Ronald Jones, at least for now.
Jones was seen at the portion of practice open to the media Tuesday afternoon with his left knee heavily wrapped but, most importantly, participating in drills in full pads.
Ronald Jones back at practice today with his knee heavily taped but moving pretty good. Certainly not 100. %Mike Evans still out but it’s not a serious. pic.twitter.com/RHDR80qfqn
— FanStreamSports JP (@FanStreamJP) August 20, 2019
Jones had not practiced the last two days of Bucs training camp with what was described as a swollen knee suffered after playing in Friday night’s preseason game with the Dolphins.
As we wrote yesterday, coach Bruce Arians provided a brief update after practice into Jones’ situation,
“Ronald’s knee swelled up a little bit and just trying to take it day to day with him.”
Traditionally, the third preseason game is the final time, where starters for the regular season play significantly. The Bucs are set to host the Cleveland Browns Friday night at Raymond James Stadium.
When asked about Jones’ chances to play or whether the team would play it safe, Arians briefly said:
“We’ll see how it is. We still got a few more days. I think Ronald’s gonna be ok.”
Jones appeared to have suffered some kind of left knee hyper-extension returning the opening kickoff on a rain-slicked turf against the Friday night. That’s what can be seen this photo on social media from Tampa Bay sports reporter Kevin O’Donnell showing Jones knee clearly in an awkward spot when he planted:
Wondering why #Bucs runningback Ronald Jones knee is sore? This is the opening kickoff Friday night against the Dolphins. Rojo didn’t practice yesterday. Looks like a hyperextension to me. pic.twitter.com/mVmW86E96x
— Kevin ODonnell Fox13 (@ODonnellFox13) August 19, 2019
Jones did carry the ball twice for 7 yards later in the first quarter of the game before being shut down for the night.
Jones has been one of the standouts of the Bucs offseason and training camp with glowing updates repeatedly from Arians about his progress and his chances of seeing significant playing time. He missed three games with a hamstring injury in a disappointing rookie year.
However, he is expected to challenge incumbent starter from last year Peyton Barber for playing time/carries, once the regular season gets underway in two weeks.
Another obvious point, if his knee was sprained or worse, the Bucs would not have had on the field in full uniform trying to run and cut, even at a reduced speed. So, that’s also a positive.
For now, we await Arians’ and the teams plans for using Jones, or not, against the Browns later today and tomorrow.