Can Jameis Winston make the leap in year three?

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Jameis Winston
NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 24: Jameis Winston /
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FOXBORO, MA – AUGUST 31: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady
FOXBORO, MA – AUGUST 31: Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots and Tom Brady /

Tough season ahead

Winston has all the tools to make the jump, but football is circumstantial and no one man can excel on his own without a strong supporting cast.

The Bucs face the league’s 14th toughest schedule in 2017 and open with a tough stretch. That stretch includes games at Miami, Minnesota and Arizona. There are home games versus the defending champion Patriots and the Giants.

On top of this they face back to back away games later in the year at Atlanta and Green Bay.

Another 9-7 year might not be viewed as a success after last year’s progression. Though it is tough to see the Bucs exceeding that record by much, if at all.

They face uncertainty defensively yet again with their young, but promising defense hoping to make the leap themselves into a top ten unit.

If Lavonte David and Gerald McCoy can replicate their All-Pro form of 2016, and youngsters like Kwon Alexander and Vernon Hargreaves can continue to improve, this D can achieve just that.

The recent acquisition of veteran Pro Bowl safety TJ Ward will also boost an uncertain secondary.

Consolidating more leads and scoring more points as a unit will certainly help Winston to improve as a quarterback. The less time the Bucs spend trailing in games the better.

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With more leads, he wont be forced to throw the ball as much. Winston can rely on the run game to close games out rather than chasing late scores.

This also relies on the running game returning to the heights of 2015. That year, Doug Martin finished second in the league in rushing yards. Martin played just eight games in 2016 after suffering from injuries and serving a four game ban for violating the league’s PED policy. He will be looking to bounce back in style in 2017.

Establishing the run is key in Winston’s development. A strong running game will reduce the need for as many big passing plays.

It will also force teams to respect that facet of the offense, rather than expecting pass plays.

With all things taken into consideration, 2017 might be a year early for Winston to truly establish himself as a top-tier quarterback in the NFL.

His judgement certainly isn’t where it should be. His offensive line still needs improvement and the defense and running game are far from certain bets.

But, all the signs point to Winston becoming one the game’s best in due time. His playmaking ability and leadership stand out above the crowd and he undoubtedly has the rare ‘it’ factor.

The Bucs, and Winston, are certainly on the up and with another season of development, and strong draft in 2018, next year could be the year the leap is made by both team and quarterback.