Winston expected to improve on deep passes
TAMPA — Even though he has the arm for it, the long ball was one of Jameis Winston’s shortcomings.
But deep passes, defined as traveling at least 20 yards through the air, will be back for the Bucs this season.
Tampa Bay was the only team in the NFL that didn’t have an offensive play of 50 yards or more last season. That led to the signing of WR DeSean Jackson to a three-year, $30.5 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
Jackson was one of the best home-run hitters in 2016 with 16 receptions of at least 20 yards.
A year ago, Winston completed 22 of 69 deep passes for 646 yards and 11 touchdowns. Six of those passes were intercepted, but some of those throws — like one in Week 16 at New Orleans — were the result of a poor decision.
Most of those plays were intended for Mike Evans, who has good speed but wins with his size and strength. Evans will still get his share of deep balls.
Quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian says Winston has worked to improve on the deep ball, but there still are routes that need work.
“Having a guy like DeSean Jackson who can run it down, especially on the deep balls, gives you a little more margin for error in that you can throw it further out there and know he’s going to run after it,” Bajakian said.
Jackson has impressed players and coaches with his rare ability to track the football in the air without losing speed.
“It’s unbelievable. And he can do it without breaking stride,” Bajakian said. “Even when he has to turn his head.”
The Bucs did not attempt a deep ball to Jackson in the preseason. He ran mostly curls, hitches and various in-routes.
“What we have seen so far, we like,” offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken said. “Now we’ve got to do it on Sunday.”