After top overall draft choice Jameis Winston flopped in his NFL debut, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith decided his rookie quarterback could benefit from a history lesson.
Some elite NFL quarterbacks of today had rough days of their own early in their careers.
Saints all-time leading passer Drew Brees, whom the Bucs will see Sunday in the Superdome, was benched more than once during his first couple seasons in San Diego. Peyton Manning threw 28 interceptions during his rookie year with the Colts. And Manning’s successor, Andrew Luck, threw three interceptions in his NFL debut against a Chicago Bears team coached by Tampa Bay’s Smith.
“You can always follow history to help you out with where you are and what’s happening currently. The last rookie quarterback that I was on an opposing team against was Andrew Luck and he had a similar-type game,” Smith said. “Of course, he is one of the best players in the league right now.
“One game doesn’t define you,” Smith continued. “Yes, we did talk to Jameis about a lot of those things. He knew those things. You would like for the opening game to turn out a certain way, but most of the time it doesn’t.”
If the second game doesn’t go better, Tampa Bay would be in an 0-2 hole. New Orleans (0-1) also needs a victory after a season-opening loss at Arizona, and the Saints won’t be underestimating Winston if coach Sean Payton has anything to say about it.
The Saints attended Florida State’s pro day and also interviewed Winston at the NFL combine.
“We were trying to get a feel at the combine for, hey, how does this guy learn? Does he pick it up quickly?” Payton recalled. “We thought his interview was outstanding.
“You can see his ability to compete. I think he has very good leadership skills and that goes back to watching the workout and watching him win at Florida State,” Payton added. “That is a tough first game and yet … when you play in this league long enough you find yourself on both ends of that type of game, and you just hope you are on the winning end more.”
Here are some of the key story lines to know as the Buccaneers visit the Big Easy:
SEEING RED: While Drew Brees passed for 355 yards last week, the Saints scored only one TD on four trips inside the Cardinals 20. New Orleans hopes that won’t be a long-term effect of trading tight end Jimmy Graham, who scored nine of his 10 TDs last season on red-zone plays. The Saints ranked sixth in red-zone efficiency in 2014
HELPING JAMEIS: Tampa Bay wants to run the football to ease the burden on Winston. Running back Doug Martin is healthy after being slowed by injuries the past two seasons and has averaged 99 yards rushing during his last three games against New Orleans. Martin averaged 4.7 yards per carry last week, but the Bucs abandoned the run after falling behind early. “He was one of the few bright moments we had,” Smith said. “We need to get the running game going and stay in games where we can continue to run.”
NO PRESSURE: The Saints have been concerned about their pass rush. After getting only two sacks in four preseason games, they failed to bring down Carson Palmer once last week. “That’s on me,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, who signed a five-year extension worth up to $55 million in June. “Beating some (lineman) that I don’t even know the last name of, that’s not really important. What’s important is me finishing it and I didn’t.”
DEFENDING BREES: Despite losing seven straight to New Orleans, the Bucs have found ways to frustrate Brees, intercepting him six times last season. “This is a new year,” defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “We have to make sure we can do it again.”
SECONDARY CONCERNS: Half the New Orleans secondary could be out Sunday. Cornerback Keenan Lewis is trying to come back from a hip injury that sidelined him in Week 1. Safety Jairus Byrd has been sidelined by a knee injury since training camp opened. In addition, safety Rafael Bush‘s season ended with a torn pectoral muscle last week. The Saints decided to re-sign veteran safety Kenny Phillips, who’d been cut after preseason and now hopes to play in a regular season game for the first time since 2012.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.