Jameis Winston’s issues, NFL power rankings and more

NFL


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already sunk in 2018 due to Jameis Winston and his apparent lack of immaturity. Worse yet, heads will roll because of it.

On Thursday, word came down that Jameis Winston is likely to be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season. Winston, 24, is believed to have violated the league’s personal conduct policy in an incident from Nov. 2017 involving an Uber driver, who claims she was groped by the Buccaneers quarterback.

Although no criminal charges were ever pursued here, the NFL did its own investigation, and evidently found cause to ban one of its signature players. For Winston, this isn’t the first time he’s been in the news for alleged misconduct with a woman. During his collegiate days with Florida State, Winston was accused of rape, resulting in an out of court settlement.

Whether or not you believe Winston to be innocent or guilty on these fronts, there are a pair of unmistakeable truths. First, and paramountly, Winston is consistently finding himself in bad situations. This needs to stop. Second, the Alabama native is on the verge of a very disappointing NFL career despite immense talent.

At some point, the bloom comes off every rose. The first-overall selection of 2015 is entering his fourth year in Tampa Bay, and the Buccaneers are yet to see a playoff game. All told, Winston is failing the organization on multiple fronts.

For starters, this suspension could well be the final nail in the proverbial coffin for head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht. Both are already on warm seats, and if Winston is out three games, it would be shocking if the Buccaneers aren’t 0-3.

Their first three opponents? The New Orleans Saints, Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers. Considering Tampa Bay’s bye comes in Week 5 after a road date with the Chicago Bears, Koetter might not see Halloween in his current role.

Winston has two years left on his rookie deal, but if Koetter and Licht are gone, so is his safety net. The Buccaneers will bring in a new regime, one that won’t be as forgiving with a quarterback who wasn’t their choice. In that vein, Winston has to stop turning the ball over, something that has plagued him throughout his time in Tampa.

In three seasons, the Heisman Trophy winner has turned the ball over a stunning 61 times in 45 games, including 14 lost fumbles. Amazingly, Winston fumbled 15 times (losing seven) in 13 contests last year.

Nobody would argue that Winston isn’t supremely gifted. He can throw the ball into any window, push the ball downfield with accuracy and create within the pocket. The tools are evident, but so are the problems.

Of course, professional sports will always give the talented athlete a second and third chance. Potential is often tantalizing, and Winston is oozing it. Still, at some juncture, potential is a fancy word for saying you haven’t done anything yet. Time remains on Winston’s side, and a terrific 13 games after the assumed suspension would quell plenty of the doubters.

But if the Buccaneers have another underwhelming season, and the front office and coaching staff  are purged, Winston is on deck. Tampa Bay won’t give up on a quarterback with obvious gifts quickly, but with mounting off-field flags and a stagnant development curve between the lines, there’s another seat beginning to heat up at One Buc Place.

Power rankings

Top 12 active non-quarterbacks who are Hall of Fame locks

1. J.J. Watt, Houston Texans
2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
3. Julius Peppers, Carolina Panthers
4. Von Miller, Denver Broncos
5. Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Larry Fitzgerald, Arizona Cardinals
7. Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots
8. Luke Kuechly, Carolina Panthers
9. Richard Sherman, Seattle Seahawks
10. Antonio Gates, Los Angeles Chargers
11. Jason Peters, Philadelphia Eagles
12. Terrell Suggs, Baltimore Ravens

Quotable

“No, I don’t think you can rely on the fact that, ‘Oh, it’s the first year here.’ Nobody cares. It’s not like in the fall, you guys are going to be like, ‘Ah, well, this is his first year here. We’ll give him a break.’ It just doesn’t work that way.”

– Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith on the pressure to win in 2018

Smith is undoubtedly correct. After spending five years in Kansas City, Smith was dealt to the Redskins for a third-round pick and star corner Kendall Fuller while receiving a four-year, $94 million deal. If Smith plays poorly and/or Washington is slow out of the blocks, criticism will be sharp. After all, the fans are frustrated with only two playoff wins since 1993.

Podcast

Matt Verderame and Josh Hill bring you a new episode of Stacking The Box every Monday which can be listened to on iTunes and watched live on FanSided’s Facebook page at 1 p.m. ET.

Random stat

In 1993, the Buffalo Bills defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Championship, 30-13. Later that afternoon, the Dallas Cowboys took down the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC title game, 30-13.

Two weeks later, the Cowboys won their second consecutive Super Bowl over the Bills. The score was 30-13.

Info learned this week

1. Tre Boston expresses frustration with slow safety market

Free agency has long been on the backburner for NFL teams, and yet some of the league’s most promising young talent remains unsigned. This is especially true at the safety position, where men like Tre Boston and Eric Reid remain on the street, looking for work.

Boston, 25, talked about the incredible lack of market, showcasing urgency and annoyance. The Chargers are seemingly not interested in a reunion despite a 2017 campaign that saw Boston grab five interceptions to go with 79 tackles.

Boston visited the Indianapolis Colts earlier this spring but never received an offer. Reid had his only visit with the Cincinnati Bengals, but also came away without options. It’s been a strange road for two of the league’s top young players.

2. Calvin Ridley impressing in Atlanta

When the Atlanta Falcons came on the clock with the 26th-overall pick, most expected an interior lineman on either side of the ball. Instead, general manager Thomas Dimitroff surprised the masses, landing Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Ridley, an explosive speedster and a technician in his routes, will pair with another former Crimson Tide star in Julio Jones.

The early returns have been nothing but positive, with Ridley showcasing humility and a quality skill set. Atlanta is trying to get back to the Super Bowl after a Divisional round loss to the Eagles in January, and Ridley’s development could go a long way toward that goal.

With Jones, Ridley and Mohamed Sanu as top targets on the outside for Matt Ryan, who already has Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman in the backfield, the Falcons should light it up.

3. Mayfield behind Tyrod in early showings

Baker Mayfield was the top pick in April’s draft, but the Cleveland Browns and their fans might be waiting a bit for his debut. Dan Libbe of Cleveland.com wrote that Mayfield doesn’t appear ready to compete with veteran Tyrod Taylor for the starting role, something that caused quite a stir.

However, Mayfield shouldn’t be expected to best Taylor yet. The former is a rookie who has never taken an NFL snap. The latter is a three-year starter who has been in the league for seven years. While the temptation is always to read deep into the tea leaves, there is nothing to see yet. Mayfield is the gumshoe, Taylor is the placeholder. As it should be.

4. Vinatieri doesn’t want to quit

Adam Vinatieri is perhaps the greatest kicker in NFL history. At 45 years old, one would think that he’s going to be wrap[ping up his career soon. However, the likely hall of Famer believes his days on the gridiron are far from over.

Could Vinatieri make it five more years and become the first NFL player to be active at 50? The oldest player to ever grace an NFL field was George Blanda, who played with the Oakland Raiders as a 48-year-old in 1975. Blanda actually spanned four decades, beginning his playing days with the Chicago Bears in 1949.

5. Barkley, Rice bare all for ESPN

New York Giants rookie running back Saquon Barkley and former San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jerry Rice are going to strip down and show off. In ESPN Magazine’s annual Body Issue, Barkley and Rice will show off their physiques alongside other sport’s best athletes.

For Barkley, it’s a chance to get some exposure before heading into his first training camp. For Rice, the feat is even more impressive, considering he retired prior to the 2005 season. Oh, he’s also 55 years old. The issue comes out June 29.

History lesson

On their first play in the NFL, the New Orleans Saints scored on a John Gilliam 94-yard kickoff return against the Los Angeles Rams.

Incredibly, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers waiting until the end of their 32nd season to finally score on a kickoff, when Michael Spurlock went the distance against Atlanta in 2007.

Parting shot

What to make of the Green Bay Packers this year? Green Bay has the game’s most-talented quarterback in Aaron Rodgers, but the roster has holes and the division is tough.

Green Bay is coming off a year where Aaron Rodgers missed seven games with a broken collarbone, leading to a 7-9 record. While Rodgers is now healthy, the running backs are a question mark, any receiver sans Davante Adams is underwhelming, and the defense is relying heavily on two rookie cornerbacks.

Unlike previous years, the NFC North is brutal. The Vikings are a Super Bowl favorite, the Bears are much-improved and the Detroit Lions are always a postseason threat. The schedule beyond Green Bay’s six interdivision games isn’t easy, either. While games against the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins, Bills and Cardinals should be wins, there are tough games with the Rams, Seahawks, 49ers, Patriots, Falcons and Redskins looming.

For almost a decade, a healthy Rodgers meant surefire playoff dates for the Packers. Not anymore.



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