Mark Gaughan's X's and O's: Tampa's Jameis Winston is the anti-Tyrod Taylor - The Buffalo News

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Mark Gaughan's X's and O's: Tampa's Jameis Winston is the anti-Tyrod Taylor

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is in some ways the opposite of Buffalo's Tyrod Taylor.

Winston is a gunslinger. Taylor is especially careful with his passes. Winston is an elite arm-talent, and he will use his cannon-launcher to challenge tight windows in the defensive secondary. Taylor usually does not.

One good ingredient to a Bills victory over the Bucs on Sunday would be grabbing an interception or two off Tampa's quarterback. In the event Winston does not play due to his sore shoulder, the same holds true for his backup, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

There is a lot to love about Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, who is only 23 years old.

At his current pace, he will end this year with the third most passing yards of any quarterback through his first three NFL seasons, behind only Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning (and ahead of Dan Marino).

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound Winston is smart, instinctive and tough. He reads defenses pretty well for a third-year player. He already shows the ability to stay in the pocket and make plays downfield late in the down, like Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger learned to do the second half of his career.

Tampa coach Dirk Koetter has designed a downfield passing attack. The Bucs have vertical threats at receiver in stars Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson.

But the tradeoff for Winston's gunslinger mentality and cannon arm is he's going to throw more interceptions than some other elite QBs. He thinks he can fit balls into tighter windows than many other QBs. And he can.

Winston was fifth in interceptions as a rookie (with 15) and second last year (with 18). He has only three picks through five games this season.

Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier was defensive chief for the Bucs during Winston's rookie season.

Asked what is most impressive about Winston's physical tools, Frazier said: "His ability to put the ball in tight spots. He can really throw the football. He has a lot of confidence in his arm and confidence in his receivers, as well."

"His mobility, combined with his toughness and his accuracy, are things I remember and things I've seen on tape the last few days," Frazier said. "He has the tools you look for in a quarterback who's going to be really good in our league."

In 37 starts, Winston has produced 64 TDs passing and rushing and 36 INTs.

In 33 starts, Taylor has produced 52 TDs passing and rushing and 13 INTs.

This is a big year for Winston and the Bucs to take a step forward after going 9-7 last season. Tampa fans are eager to see more growth. His completion percentage needs to improve a bit. It was 60.8 last year and stands at 60.4 this season. It's not a horizontal offense, so he's not going to hit 66 percent. But he has missed some open receivers in recent weeks.

Every QB has something to prove. But Winston's big-play ability far outweighs his higher-than-average penchant for pickoffs.

"Jameis is right on track for a guy that's 23 years old and has made 37 starts," Koetter said.

If Winston does not play Sunday, the Tampa scheme does not change under Fitzpatrick. Winston is not a running quarterback. He's a pocket passer with mobility. So is Fitz. And Fitz has the same gunslinger mentality as Winston (minus, of course, the elite arm talent).

The 30,000-foot view: The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, also owns the English football powerhouse Manchester United, one of the top 10 most valuable sports franchises in the world. ManU is valued at about $3.9 billion by Forbes. The Bucs are at $1.8 billion. The Bucs fired Lovie Smith after just two seasons following the 2015 campaign in large part because they viewed offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as the ideal person to mentor Winston. Koetter might have been hired by Miami, or others, if he had not been elevated by the Bucs.

Game-breaker: DeSean Jackson. The Bucs gave the 30-year-old Jackson a three-year deal worth $11.1 million a year to move from Washington in free agency. He's an ideal complement to Evans. Jackson ran a 4.35-second 40 before being drafted by Philadelphia in the first round in 2008. He still has elite speed. His 17.7-yard career yards-per-catch average is No. 1 among active players and No. 2 among all players who entered the NFL since 1990. Jackson has 22 TDs of 60-plus yards and needs one more to tie Jerry Rice for most in history.

Chess-match breakdown: Expect the Bills to play a lot of their preferred zones, just like New England did two weeks ago in its 19-14 win over the Bucs. Sit back in a shell. Don't get beat by the big play. The ideal response for the Bucs will be to get capable back Doug Martin going. He returned from a suspension two weeks ago and gained 74 yards on 13 carries against the Pats. (Forget last week's aberration-game against the Cardinals in which the Bucs fell behind, 31-0.) Can the Bills' front seven win the line of scrimmage against an only ordinary Bucs' offensive line?

Weak link: Edge rush. Tampa ranks last in the NFL in sacks per pass attempt. It's an old story for the Bucs, who have not had a 10-sack player since Simeon Rice in 2005. There have been 192 10-sack seasons in the NFL the past 11 years. Every other team has had one. No Bucs. Tampa has one sack combined this season from its top edge rushers, Robert Ayers and Noah Spence, who both like to rush wide and deep.

It's questionable whether the receiver-depleted Bills can take advantage of any extra time Taylor may have in the pocket. Tampa defensive coordinator Mike Smith, the former Falcons head coach, is not a big blitzer. There won't be much reason to blitz a Buffalo passing game that scares no one.

Still shutting 'em down: Tampa's best cornerback is 34-year-old Brent Grimes, the former Falcon and Dolphin. His 31 interceptions rank fifth among active players. Grimes is the oldest starting corner in the NFL and one of only four corners age 34 or up still in the league. The others are Cincinnati's Adam Jones (34), Arizona's Tramon Williams (34) and Minnesota's Terence Newman (39). Newman started at age 38 last season and is the Vikings' third corner this season.

Stat for the road: Bucs place-kickers have made just 69 percent of field goals the past two-plus seasons, lowest rate in the league. The league average is 84.2 percent. Patrick Murray will be kicking his second game for the Bucs since replacing Nick Folk.

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