On Sept. 13, the NFL is giving us a rematch of this year’s Rose Bowl – sort of.
After Marcus Mariota’s Oregon Ducks torched Jameis Winston’s Florida State’s Seminoles, 59-20, in Pasadena on New Year’s Day, the two most recent Heisman Trophy winners will begin their NFL careers against each other, with the Buccaneers hosting the Titans in Tampa Bay.
Scott Ferrall can’t wait.
“I’m with you,” Tampa Tribune Buccaneers beat writer Roy Cummings said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I’m very excited for this kid and excited for the franchise and excited for the fans here. It’s been a long time since they’ve had a quarterback that they could honestly rally around and believe is going to take them somewhere that they haven’t been in awhile – and this kid’s got it. He’s got it all. He’s got a great personality off the field, but on the field you’re seeing it seems like there’s nothing he can’t do. He’s got two rushing touchdowns. He’s yet to throw a touchdown pass. That tells you what kind of a football player he is. He’s fearless, a very smart kid in terms of football IQ, certainly knows what he’s seeing when he starts looking at defenses, he diagnoses things quickly, he makes very good decisions with the ball – he’s a gunslinger. He’s going to make some mistakes. He’s going to throw some passes he wishes he hadn’t thrown.
“But at the end of the day, I think he’s going to move this team a lot further than a lot of people have and probably a lot further than a lot of people thought he would because the kid’s got it,” Cummings continued. “Every day out here with this team through training camp and now into the preseason, he does something different that impresses you – whether it’s the way he breaks down a play, the way he changes the play at the line of scrimmage, just the way he shows his confidence on the field itself, the way he throws the ball. He’s just got it. Whatever it is, he’s got it and he’s got plenty of it.”
Despite Winston’s quick progression – not to mention his seemingly endless supply of skill-position players – Las Vegas predicts the Bucs will win just six games this season.
“Well you know what it is,” Cummings said. “He’s got weapons all over the field. They’re three, four, five deep at the wide receiver position. Russell Shepard is starting to look like he could be a receiving prospect as well, more than just a special teams guy. He had a big night the other night. Louis Murphy is still a very solid third guy. They drafted Kenny Bell out of Nebraska, who, if Kenny Bell had played anywhere other than Nebraska, he’d probably be a second-round pick. This kid’s got skills as well. Jameis Winston has tons of weaponry around him. The problem is, he doesn’t have a very good line in front of him. He’s got an aging player obviously in Logan Mankins. He’s got a left tackle who’s a rookie. He’s got a right guard who’s a rookie. He’s got a right tackle who’s a journeyman. It’s a little bit of a mish-mash in terms of that offensive line. If that line can hold up, this team’s going to be a lot better than people are projecting.
“But I understand why Vegas says six wins,” Cummings continued. “I’m in the six-win category myself. I think they’re capable of winning more. The talent is there to do more. But when you got a rookie quarterback who’s going to make mistakes, when you’ve got young offensive linemen, which this team has, they’re going to have some growing pains too. So I think they’re going to have some issues there and that’s probably going to cost them a game or two. But I still see them as a six-win team or possibly even an eight-win team if everything goes their way – but again, everything’s going to have to go their way. . . . By next year, this is going to be a team to watch out for. This year is going to be fun because it’s going to be a growing season. But come next year, you could really see this team take off.”