TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made good on a promise to put more playmakers around young quarterback Jameis Winston, who’s eager to use them to help an improved team fulfill its potential this season.
Free agent acquisition DeSean Jackson and draft picks O.J. Howard and Chris Godwin are among the newcomers the Bucs are counting on to give Winston a chance to end the franchise’s long hiatus from the playoffs.
Two-time Pro Bowl running back Doug Martin is in training camp, too, after missing much of last season because of injuries and a late-season suspension that extends through the first three games of 2017.
Throw in Mike Evans, Cam Brate, Adam Humphries and Jacquizz Rodgers, who all contributed to Winston’s success in leading Tampa Bay to a 9-7 record last season, and it’s easy to understand why the third-year quarterback is excited to get started again.
“It’s fun. It’s fun just taking the snap and analyzing the field and seeing that you have guys that can go get it everywhere,” Winston said after practice Friday at One Buccaneer Place.
“It’s not just about me because as they go, I go. As I go, we go,” he added. “It’s complementary football.”
Winston completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, helping the Bucs flirt with a playoff berth.
He also tossed 18 interceptions and lost six fumbles, leaving ball security at the top of his list of areas where he needs to get better.
“It’s never a part of my development where I will feel like I have arrived,” Winston said, stressing his focus is on improving all aspects of his game after topping 4,000 yards passing each of the past two seasons.
Tampa Bay hasn’t made the playoffs since 2007 and haven’t won a postseason game since its Super Bowl run 15 years ago.
“Every year my goal is to get better. I can’t speak on what history has proven, but I just know I want to be a great leader to this team,” Winston reiterated. “I want to serve my teammates and I want to have success because it’s is a complimentary game. I go, we go. We go, I go.”
Coach Dirk Koetter, who’s his own offensive coordinator, said Winston has the talent and work ethic necessary to develop into one of the league’s top quarterbacks.
“The way Jameis works, Jameis is going to get better and better,” Koetter said. “I go back to this all the time. Tom Brady 38; Drew Brees, 37; Matt Ryan, 32; Jameis Winston, 23. He’s going to get better. I don’t know how much this year, how much next year. He’s going to get better.”
Evans, a first-time Pro Bowl selection after catching 96 passes for 1,321 yards and 12 TDs in 2016, feels the addition of the speedy Jackson, as well as rookies Howard and Godwin, will help him as well as Winston.
“He’s going on year three and he’s already one of the best quarterbacks in the league in my eyes, and he will only improve in time,” Evans said.
“Giving him these new weapons, he’s going to be an even better player than he already is,” Evans added. “He’s just a great leader. We love being around him. We love his attitude, and his preparation for the game is second to none. He’s going to be a great player for a long, long time, and this year he is going to explode, I think.”
Coming off the team’s first winning record in six years, Winston welcomes heightened expectations and the challenge of meeting them.
He said the Bucs will do it by remaining level-headed and working hard.
“Like I said, we have never arrived,” Winston concluded. “So, no matter the expectation, at the end of the day we still have to go out there and execute. We’ve got to win football games.”