Protecting Jameis Winston at root of Buccaneers quest for speed

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TAMPA – For as long as he’s been under center for the Buccaneers, quarterback Jameis Winston has been under siege.

As a rookie in 2015 he was officially hit 109 times by opposing pass rushers, fourth most in the league, according to NFL stats.

It was de-ja vu all over again last year, when Winston was once again hit 109 times, fifth-most in the league, according to the NFL.

Who’s to blame? Well, most of the blame for an issue like that usually goes to the offensive line and well it should.

The Bucs see things a bit differently, though, which is why they’re not blaming the line anywhere near as much as some.

Part of the problem, the Bucs say, is that their offensive line has far too often been asked to protect Winston for far too long.

A lineman can only hold back a pass rusher for so long before he loses the battle and that’s what’s been happening to the Bucs.

The critical question, of course, is how to solve the problem, and there are two things that have to happen for the Bucs to correct it.

First off, the quarterback has to get rid of the ball quicker. In order to do that, though, options have to open up to him quicker.

That’s why getting faster, particularly at the wide receiver position, was the Bucs primary objective this offseason.

Sure, you always want to be faster than the other teams because we all know speed is a valuable weapon no matter the sport.

But as it pertains to the Bucs, general manager Jason Licht explained recently that his quest for speed was designed largely to protect Winston and get more out of him.

“We were lacking speed last year,” Licht told Adam Schein, host of “Schein on Sports’’ on SiriusXM Radio. “Speed was one issue we felt we had. It caused some other issues with our offense.

“Part of the reason Jameis had to hang around in the pocket so much is defenses were doubling-down on Mike Evans, and if Cam Brate wasn’t open, then (Jameis) was scanning the field (and) he was taking too many hits.

“So we feel that the addition of DeSean (Jackson) is going to cause some problems, and when you throw Cam and O.J. (Howard) in there and some of the other weapons we have, we feel (our pass protection) is going to be much, much improved.’’

The Bucs can only hope. Winston has proved to be a very sturdy quarterback, but he’s also a reckless quarterback.

He has a tendency to take a lot of hits he doesn’t need to take simply because he tries so hard to make plays and often refuses to give up on them.

So anything the Bucs can do to preserve the hits Winston would normally take should help preserve what is easily their most valuable weapon.




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