Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie Jameis Winston is showing growing pains, ranking 32nd out of 34 qualifiers with a 56.6 completion percentage to go with the league’s worst interception percentage.
Kirk Cousins is also shown a penchant for getting picked off and he’s 34th and last with 9.40 yards per completion, though the Washington Redskins have no intention of benching him for now.
Both quarterbacks have nearly identical mediocre passer ratings below 80 and may want to rely on their running games in Sunday’s matchup at FedEx Field.
Winston has been inaccurate this season with seven interceptions in 152 attempts for a 4.2 percentage. His completion percentage of 53.8 on third downs is fifth-worst among regular starters, though the top overall draft pick doesn’t believe there is any extra pressure on him.
"I’m really nobody in this league yet so they don’t really have to worry about me," he said. "I have great teammates that do a great job and we have a great team. That’s I think the biggest thing about this league is, you have complete team wins."
Winston’s passer rating of 77.6 ranks 30th – one spot ahead of Cousins at 77.4. Cousins has the NFL’s fourth-most interceptions with eight – all in Washington’s four defeats.
Coach Jay Gruden insists that Cousins will remain the starter. The fourth-year quarterback remains confident.
”I don’t think it’s going to help us to hit the panic button,” Cousins said. ”I don’t think it’s going to help us to be completely relaxed. I think in the middle lies virtue. You’ve got to have a balance.”
Winston and Tampa Bay (2-3) had their bye last week after winning 38-31 over Jacksonville on Oct. 11.
That contest marked another pedestrian effort for Mike Evans, who had three catches for 41 yards. Evans, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, has been targeted a total of 13 times the last two games by Winston.
"Some things work and some things don’t," Winston said. "It’s football. He had a big year last year, people (are) focusing on stopping Mike Evans, that’s the big thing."
Doug Martin has topped 100 yards on the ground in each of the last two games for the Buccaneers, who have the league’s ninth-best rushing attack with 122.4 yards per game.
Martin has gained at least 10 yards on 14 rushes this season to tie for the NFL’s second-highest total. Injuries limited him to 17 games and 950 rushing yards over the previous two years.
”I never doubted myself,” he said.
The Buccaneers would like to get Martin going early since they are one of three teams yet to score a first-quarter TD along with Denver and San Francisco.
"We do want to get a fast start for sure, especially when you’re on the road, at home too," coach Lovie Smith said. "Everything we talk about is ‘Start fast, start fast.’"
Washington (2-4) is ranked 17th in rushing with an average of 107.2 yards. Alfred Morris has been stifled for 36 yards on 19 carries over consecutive defeats.
Gruden said that his club is at a critical juncture after last Sunday’s 34-20 loss to the New York Jets. Washington was outscored 17-0 in the third quarter, a period in which it has been outscored 46-3.
”We’re getting backed into a corner right now," Gruden said. "And everybody is taking their shots at us right now. And we can either come out swinging or we can take it. And I hope that we all come out swinging.”
Gruden is expecting left tackle Trent Williams and tight end Jordan Reed to be fully cleared after suffering concussions. Reed has missed the last two games and Williams sat out last week.
DeSean Jackson will miss his sixth straight game with a hamstring injury suffered in the opener.
Tampa Bay won the last meeting, 27-7 on the road Nov. 16. Evans had seven catches for a career-high 209 yards with two scores as part of a stretch in which he had at least 124 yards in three straight games.
The quarterbacks in that contest won’t start in this one, with Robert Griffin III currently Washington’s backup and Josh McCown now Cleveland’s starter.