TAMPA – The arrival of wideout DeSean Jackson has given the Buccaneers offense a weapon the likes of which it hasn’t had since Joey Galloway was running go routes for them back in the early 2000s.
You have to wonder, though, just how much the Bucs will be able to take advantage of that weapon. After all, it’s not like throwing the deep ball has been one of quarterback Jameis Winston’s strengths.
Though Winston can drive the ball downfield as well as any quarterback in the league, he has struggled to consistently drive it into the hands of his intended receivers.
Since Winston arrived in the NFL three years ago, he has completed just 46.6-percent of the passes that have sailed 16 yards or more downfield and just 32.8-percent of the passes that have soared 20 or more yards downfield.
Those marks rank 22nd and 28th respectively among NFL starting quarterbacks the last two years, but the Bucs have reason to believe Winston will improve markedly on those numbers this year.
For starters, they’ve seen an overall improvement in Winston’s accuracy on all throws that dates back to the start of offseason workouts. In particular, though, they say they’ve seen an improvement in his ability to connect on the deep ball.
“Without a doubt that is probably the biggest improvement (he’s made),’’ said Bucs offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who attributed the improvement in large part to experience and Winston’s growing familiarity with his teammates.
“I just think there’s something to be said for having the same receivers and doing it over and over and never getting tired of doing the same thing over and over until you get really good at it,’’ he said.
“I mean, it’s really just a matter of repetition. I’m, sure there are some technique things that he’s improved on as well … but the bottom line is, he’s just more accurate.
“And I think our guys are more disciplined in their routes and in being in the right spots, which is as much a part of it as anything. Your protection and route discipline usually leads to a higher completion percentage.’’
Whatever the reason for it, Winston completed about 10-percent more of all his passes during training camp and the preseason this year than he did a year ago, according to the Bucs.
That improvement included a clearly visible improvement on the deep ball, which Winston was hitting with regularity during camp drills. The real test of his supposed improvement on those deepo throws, though, begins on Sunday.
“We’ll see how it looks moving forward, but what we’ve seen so far we like,’’ Monken said. “The key, though, is that you’ve got to do it on Sunday. That’s what it all comes down to. Can you do it on game day?’’