Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston is widely predicted to have a breakout season coming up. The addition of deep threat DeSean Jackson provides the extra ingredient Winston needs to run a top-flight offense. But we didn’t see much of it in their 13-9 preseason loss to the Cleveland Browns this weekend.
Winston went 17-27 for 200 yards in a half, which sounds pretty good. But he failed to get into the end zone, needing a last second field goal before the half to walk off the field in a 3-3 tie. The Bucs’ passer was sacked twice and threw an interception during his half of work.
With 200 yards passing in a half, it wasn’t all bad. Rookie Chris Godwin continued to impress as he filled in for missing Mike Evans and Jackson. He finished with four catches for 56 yards. Rookie tight end O.J. Howard caught both of his targets for 15 yards. Incumbent tight end Cameron Brate, who led all tight ends with eight touchdowns a season ago, was targeted six times, but could only haul in two for 22 yards.
The Cleveland defense has been playing well all preseason, but even without their two starting wideouts, Tampa was not pleased with the results. Meanwhile, the Buccaneers defense bent but barely broke against the starting unit of Cleveland, matching the 3-point total and forcing a turnover when it looked like they might score again.
What did we learn?
Winston moved the team well without his two big guns. Cameron Brate, who lined up all over the place last season, got the most targets in their absence. The rookie Howard has not had a very impressive showing in the preseason. Winston’s comfort with Brate makes me wonder how much of a factor Howard will be this year.
Jacquizz Rodgers led the running attack with ten carries for 34 yards to go along with a 17-yard catch. Peyton Barber grabbed four passes for 27 yards, but only mustered six yards on five carries. Free agent Russell Hansbrough managed 28 yards on just four carries. Doug Martin was told he might not be the starter when he returns from his three-game suspension. He picked up two yards on two carries in a token appearance.
Tampa Bay’s defense improved steadily as the 2016 season went on. They seem to be picking up where they left off, although no one expects the Browns to be an offensive juggernaut.
Winston’s performance isn’t going to do anything to diminish his promise this year. With Jackson opening things up for Mike Evans and the tight ends, this could be a good season for Bucs fans. Their young quarterback is coming off the typical fantasy draft board as the QB7. That seems like a good bet to play.
With all the talk about Jackson, it is easy to forget the Buccaneers had the top-ranked fantasy wide receiver last season in Mike Evans. With Jackson drawing coverage away, Evans could have an even better season in 2017. Or… he could see fewer targets and drop a bit. Fantasy owners are picking him as the WR4 or 5 for the most part. The volume will still be there as Tampa Bay keeps talking about a running game as they pass the ball around.
DeSean Jackson’s ADP is WR34 around the seventh round. That is about where I have him, too. He has potential to be higher as he is among the leaders in long pass receptions. But he also only caught four red zone passes last season for one touchdown, leaving valuable points for the tight ends and Evans.
Tampa goes into the regular season with Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, and Peyton Barber waiting for Doug Martin’s return. Martin is enjoying an ADP of RB21 in the fourth round as no one expects Rodgers to win the starting job, although the backup has a ninth round ADP of RB41. The success of Tampa’s passing attack might diminish the contribution of the running game. They are safe picks at their current ADP, but I never trust Tampa Bay runners.
Those other fantasy guys
When O. J. Howard was drafted, Cameron Brate’s impressive 2016 was largely forgotten. But he is a trusted red zone target of Winston. Howard has not impressed much so far, which is normal for rookie tight ends. He is coming off the board just ahead of Brate at TE14 and TE17. Howard may have a game or two, but I believe Brate will finish as a top-ten fantasy tight end. Given his druthers, expect Winston to throw to the proven commodity in the end zone.
Nick Folk looks like he will enter 2017 as the Bucs’ kicker. He had some fantasy success in the past before injuries and the Jets’ situation derailed him. He is a worthy kicker option with Tampa’s offense.
Tampa’s defense is improving and may approach relevance soon. But remember, they play Atlanta and New Orleans twice each. They will serve you better as a streamer during the season.
So… that’s that
Fans around Tampa are looking forward to seeing DeSean Jackson streaking down the field with Mike Evans. I think Adam Humphries, Brate and Howard will benefit as much as Evans will from Jackson’s presence. Whatever happens, it will be exciting.
But who cares? It’s all about points for our fantasy teams, not the enjoyment of some folks in Florida. A handful of Buccaneers will help provide those points while some others have potential down the road.
We’ll be watching that road for signs of the newcomers all season, so check back often for updates and advice from RealSport.
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