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Bucs OC on Winston’s struggles: He’s a rookie

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TAMPA, Fla. — Barring a tie, a bleak streak will end for either the Jacksonville Jaguars or Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.

Jacksonville has lost its past 11 games on the road. The Bucs have dropped 11 consecutive games at home.

Both teams are 1-3 and coming off disappointing losses, putting pressure on their embattled head coaches and young quarterbacks – Bucs rookie Jameis Winston and Jags second-year pro Blake Bortles.

Winston entered the league with a reputation of a quarterback prone to throwing interceptions, and he has done nothing to dispel that label after a 1-3 start this season.

Winston has thrown six touchdowns and seven interceptions, including four picks and a lost fumble in last Sunday’s 37-23 loss to the Carolina Panthers. For the second time at Raymond James Stadium, his first pass attempt resulted in a pick-six.

But offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter says it’s too early to paint Winston as a turnover machine.

“Playing in college is not playing in the NFL,” Koetter said. “It’s just different animals. Did we throw too many interceptions in this game? Yes. Can we base the whole rest of Jameis’ career on that? No. It’s bad.

“Unfortunately, when you have four interceptions, there’s a lot of explaining to do. We had four interceptions, it’s a fact. Two bad decisions, one tipped ball and one great play. That’s what I wrote on my sheet.”

In the Bucs’ two road games, Winston has been much more careful with the football. He had no interceptions in a 26-19 win over the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 20 and had only one pick in a 19-9 loss the following week at the Houston Texans.

“Turnovers change the game,” Koetter said. “A fumbled snap, a pick-six interception and we’re down 10-0 just like that. The whole game changed.

Unfortunately, that’s happened two out of four games. In between that, Jameis played two pretty good games. He played pretty good against New Orleans and pretty decent at Houston. What can we learn from that? Our quarterback is playing inconsistent. Well, we have a rookie quarterback and he’s playing inconsistent. What’s the next news flash?”

Winston knows he needs to resist the urge to try and put the entire offense on his shoulders and be overly aggressive in the passing game.

“We’ve got some great players around me on this team that can make plays,” Winston said. “I’ve just got to protect the football.

“It really is that simple. You’ve just got to take the simple play. Give it to your back and let him make a big. You can’t put everything on yourself. Sometimes, they may good plays. (Panthers linebacker) Thomas Davis made a great play on that interception. There are only so many ways you can sum up an interception, but at the same the end of the day, you’ve got to limit those.”

The Bucs did some good things on offense last week. Running back Doug Martin rushed for more than 100 yards for the second time in his last 19 games, and the offense was better on third down and in the red zone.

Defensively, the Bucs missed some opportunities for turnovers, failing to recover a fumble that was scooped by the Panthers and resulted in a touchdown; and linebacker Lavonte David dropped an interception.

The Jags have the second-worst scoring offense in the NFL at 15.5 points per game, so this could be a defensive struggle that could come down the place-kickers.

To that end, the Bucs released rookie Kyle Brindza, who missed 6 of 12 field-goal attempts, and replaced him with reliable veteran Connor Barth.

SERIES HISTORY: Sixth regular-season meeting. Jacksonville leads the series 4-1, with Tampa Bay winning the inaugural meeting between the clubs with a 17-16 victory in Tampa in 1995. Jacksonville claimed the last four meetings, winning three in Jacksonville: in 1998 (29-24), 2003 (17-10) and 2011 (41-14), along with a 24-23 win in Tampa in 2007.

GAME PLAN: Bucs coach Lovie Smith has preached fast starts, but the team has had anything but during an 11-game losing streak at Raymond James Stadium. QB Jameis Winston has to avoid the early turnover, particularly those that result in field position and/or points. His first pass attempt in each of the team’s two home games this season have resulted in a pick-six.

The Bucs would like to run the ball with Doug Martin, who had only his second 100-yard rushing day in the past 19 games last week. But the Jags are very good against the run and Winston may have to loosen up the defense by throwing the football.

Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said the Jags always bring one more player than you can block on defense. So Winston will have to throw the football quick.

Defensively, the Bucs rank 30th against the run, and Will Gholston has replaced defensive end George Johnson in the starting lineup. What he lacks as a pass rusher he makes up for against the run.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH:

–Jaguars LT Luke Joeckel vs. Bucs DE Jacquies Smith. The Bucs had only one sack from the defensive line last week. Smith has been shut out for two weeks but leads the team with four. He must put pressure on QB Blake Bortles.

–Jaguars TE Mercedes Lewis vs. Bucs S Bradley McDougald. All five of Lewis’ catches this season came in Week 4. Last week, McDougald did a good job bottling up Panthers TE Greg Olson.


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