Jameis Winston struggles in 3rd preseason start as Bucs come up short vs. Browns
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The Cleveland Browns were a tough matchup for Jameis Winston.
The first overall pick in this year’s draft struggled during Tampa Bay’s 31-7 preseason loss Saturday night, sacked four times and intercepted once by a Browns defense that’s as healthy as it’s been since training camp began with Pro Bowlers Joe Haden and Tashaun Gipson back on the field.
Josh McCown finished two long drives with touchdown passes, Travis Benjamin scored on a 53-yard punt return, and the Browns never allowed Winston to establish a rhythm in what may have been the rookie’s final tuneup for the regular season.
"We felt good about the matchup," Browns coach Mike Pettine said. "I know they’re a little banged-up in their offensive line, but we wanted our guys to go out there and go hunting. That’s what they do."
Back in half-filled Raymond James Stadium and facing the team that released him to clear the way to select Winston No. 1 overall in this year’s draft, McCown completed 17 of 23 passes for 117 yards.
Winston, meanwhile, struggled in his third preseason start. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner was 6 of 15 for 90 yards before leaving after one series in the third quarter.
"Win or lose, you always can find a way to get better," Winston said. "This game, I got another thing to learn from. From the blitz protection standpoint. I’ve got to see things and get us in the right protection. This is definitely a learning experience."
McCown threw TD passes of 3 yards to Brian Hartline and 7 yards to Gary Barnidge. The first finished a 16-play, 80-yard drive featuring three third-down conversions. The second capped an 11-play, 78-yard series beginning the second half.
"It was fun to be out there and win," McCown, 1-10 as a starter with Tampa Bay in 2014, said. "It’s something we didn’t do last year in that stadium, so I’m glad I could come out here and finally get that done."
Winston’s longest completion, 26 yards to Vincent Jackson, led to Doug Martin’s 19-yard touchdown run for the Bucs (1-2), who fizzled after an impressive showing against Cincinnati in their second preseason game.
Bucs coach Lovie Smith said he didn’t believe Winston took a step back in his development.
"Tonight he was a part of a bad effort that we had as a football team," Smith said. "Jameis, any position you bring up, it just wasn’t good enough."
The Browns’ offense finally had two of its top playmakers in receiver Dwayne Bowe and rookie running back Duke Johnson, albeit for a short time. Both players missed portions of camp and the first two preseason games with hamstring injuries. Johnson’s status going forward was not immediately clear after leaving in the second quarter and being evaluated for what the Browns said was a concussion.
Johnson, expected to be a main cog in Cleveland’s system, had one carry for 4 yards and one reception for 1 yard. McCown targeted Bowe three times in the first half, but the receiver didn’t have any catches.
NOWHERE TO RUN
Tampa Bay’s rushing attack, which figures to be one of the keys to giving Winston a chance to be successful as a rookie, was inconsistent. Despite scoring on a 19-yard run and gaining 10 on his next carry, Martin finished with 40 yards on nine carries. He averaged nearly 10 yards per carry on six attempts against the Bengals last Monday.
The Browns sacked Winston four times and Glennon twice. DE Desmond Bryant led the way with 1 1-2. LB Paul Kruger was credited with a half on the second sack of Winston. S Ibraheim Campbell, S Landon Feichter, DE Jamie Meder and LB Mike Reilly had one each.
Terrelle Pryor, slowed by a hamstring injury while making the transition from quarterback to wide receiver, did not dress. Coach Mike Pettine made it clear the Browns will not guarantee him a roster spot, so Pryor needs to show something soon.
Browns: CB Pierre Desir left in the second quarter and was evaluated for a concussion. CB Charles departed in the third quarter with a sore hamstring. Several key players, including Haden and Gipson, played after being out with injuries. QB Johnny Manziel did not play, shut down for the remainder of the preseason because of a sore right elbow.
Buccaneers: Rookie WR Kaelin Clay left in the first half with a rib injury.
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- Jameis Winston
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