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2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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This may not be the year JAMEIS WINSTON becomes a top 10 quarterback, but expect a quantum leap. The Buccaneers understand exactly what Winston is: a smart (potentially brilliant) gunslinger whose release is a bit methodical. He doesn't fit the quick-strike schemes that define so many of today's offenses; he's suited for the slower-developing plays that stem from five- and seven-step dropbacks. Coach DIRK KOETTER'S shrewd downfield concepts will bring out Winston's best.

• Winston needs to cut down on his interceptions. He threw 15 as a rookie and 18 last year (second only to Philip Rivers for the NFL high). Winston has the talent to compensate with big plays—as Eli Manning does, and Brett Favre did—and he's not simply "mistake-prone" like his backup, RYAN FITZPATRICK. And Winston's turnovers should decline with experience. Many of them are the result of overly aggressive decisions on reads that most young quarterbacks wouldn't even know enough to consider.

• Tampa Bay has the three kinds of receivers that teams want in a downfield passing offense: a big wideout who can run corner and post patterns and win with the ball in the air (MIKE EVANS); a speedster who can attack safeties, opening up the intermediate levels (DESEAN JACKSON); and a tight end who can work the seams and run the 5-to-15-yard routes (both first-round rookie O.J. HOWARD of Alabama and incumbent starter CAMERON BRATE).

• In the first half of last season the Bucs' defense allowed 29.0 points and 398.9 yards per game. In the second half it surrendered 17.1 points and 337.0 yards. What changed? The players' comfort with coordinator MIKE SMITH'S zone concepts. The back seven played with much better spacing and awareness, and Smith, in turn, became more comfortable dialing up coverage disguises. Expect more improvement in 2017.

• An effective zone-based D requires a strong four-man pass rush. Aside from signing former Redskins tackle CHRIS BAKER in the offseason, GM Jason Licht did not address this unit. So he is counting on NOAH SPENCE to make even better use of the edge-quickness and second-effort burst that he flashed as a rookie.

"EXPECT A QUANTUM LEAP FROM WINSTON, WHO IS PLAYING IN AN OFFENSE THAT WILL BRING OUT HIS BEST."

SI'S 2017 PREDICTION

10--6

2016 RECORD 9--7

SEPT. 10

AT MIA

SEPT. 17

VS. CHI

SEPT. 24

AT MIN

OCT. 1

VS. NYG

OCT. 5

THURSDAY

VS. NE

OCT. 15

AT ARI

OCT. 22

AT BUF

OCT. 29

VS. CAR

NOV. 5

AT NO

NOV. 12

VS. NYJ

BYE

NOV. 26

AT ATL

DEC. 3

AT GB

DEC. 10

VS. DET

DEC. 18

MONDAY

VS. ATL

DEC. 24

AT CAR

DEC. 31

VS. NO

Position Rankings

QB

15

SKILL

11

Strength

OL

11

FRONT 7

11

DBs

17

ANDY BENOIT'S 400 MMQB ON.SI.COM/400

49 GERALD MCCOY DT

70 MIKE EVANS WR

132 DESEAN JACKSON WR

164 JAMEIS WINSTON QB

167 BRENT GRIMES CB

207 LAVONTE DAVID LB

210 CAMERON BRATE TE

217 KWON ALEXANDER LB

218 VERNON HARGREAVES CB

234 ALI MARPET C

252 ROBERT AYERS DE

277 CHRIS BAKER DT

289 DEMAR DOTSON T

321 NOAH SPENCE DE

334 DONOVAN SMITH T

342 WILLIAM GHOLSTON DE