Jameis Winston’s NFL debut left plenty to be desired.
Facing off against Tennessee in the season opener, Winston threw a pick-six on his first NFL pass, tossed another later in the game, took four sacks and failed to complete 50 percent of his passes.
Put simply, Winston looked like a rookie making his first start.
But the New Orleans Saints are expecting a Winston that looks much more like the version that dominated college competition at Florida State when he leads the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Sunday for the first road start of his young career.
“He’s going to get better,” Saints strong safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “He was successful in college, played in a pro-style offense. He’s smart, so I think he’ll get the right corrections from the game tape and bounce back.”
Winston, who will likely get his No. 1 receiver, Mike Evans, back from a hamstring injury, completed 16-of-33 passes for 210 yards, two interceptions and two touchdowns to tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Winston also fumbled twice, although he got both of those snaps back.
Tampa Bay lost 42-14, the worst defeat for a first-time starter in 67 years. Winston, for his part, has spent this week trying to both forget the performance and learn from it at the same time.
“It was my first game, so you put that one behind you and you move on to the next one,” Winston said in a conference call with Saints media. “I have to protect the football. I can’t start off slow. I have to try and get us a good drive the first drive and try to keep the momentum on our side.”
New Orleans is expecting a much better performance from Winston the second time around. Saints coach Sean Payton has been in enough blowouts to know that games like that can get out of hand in a hurry.
And New Orleans expects to see the quarterback they were expecting to see when they met with him months ago. The Saints interviewed Winston for 15 minutes at the NFL combine and came away impressed.
“We’re trying to get a feel at the combine for hey, how does this guy learn, does he pick it up quickly?” Payton said. “I thought he did. We thought his interview was outstanding.”
Winston, for his part, has been watching New Orleans film, and he expects to see a lot more blitzing than he got against Tennessee.
According to ESPN, Winston only threw six passes against the blitz in Week 1. He’s expecting the Saints to bring more exotic pressures in the Superdome.
“I know that they are going to bring some pressures. In the first game they didn’t bring that much pressures, but just watching the Houston preseason game they brought a lot,” Winston said. “We just have to see what they are going to do. I get that feel when it is time for game time.”
The key might not be pressure, but limiting Winston’s options. Winston was 12-of-27 when throwing against a four-man rush in the season opener; he completed 4-of-6 against the blitz.
New Orleans, obviously, isn’t giving up the game plan, but the Saints will try to make Winston’s second start difficult to navigate.
“That’s the plan,” Saints cornerback Delvin Breaux said. “We’re going to try to mix everything up so his read’s not going to be quite as easy as if we were just stationary. We’re going to disguise little things and make it tough on him.”