The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Jacksonville Jaguars are taking their lumps as they wait for their quarterbacks of the future to develop.
While Blake Bortles looks to finally put together two strong halves, rookie Jameis Winston hopes to regroup from arguably his roughest performance when the Buccaneers try to snap their longest home losing streak in 38 years Sunday.
Winston completed just 52.2 percent of his passes with four touchdowns and three interceptions in his first three games before things got worse last Sunday. He threw four picks – including one that was returned for a score – in a 37-23 home loss to Carolina.
Winston, who was only sacked once but hit six times, also completed 26 of 43 attempts for a season-high 287 yards and two touchdowns. The Buccaneers (1-3) won 26-19 at New Orleans on Sept. 20 in his only game without an interception.
"It’s just decision making," he said. "That’s one thing we (take) pride in here is just making good decisions and winning the turnover ratio. Obviously, last game wasn’t what we expected, but I just have to get better every week."
Winston did a better job of finding Vincent Jackson, who finished with season highs of 10 catches and 147 yards with a touchdown. The veteran receiver had nine receptions for 145 yards and a score over the first three games.
Running back Doug Martin also had a big game with 106 yards and a touchdown, but Jacksonville (1-3) is fourth in the NFL with 83.0 rushing yards allowed per game. The Jaguars held Indianapolis to 60 yards and 2.5 per carry in last Sunday’s 16-13 overtime road defeat.
Winston knows the in-state rivals will likely force him to make some plays in the passing game as the Buccaneers try to end an 11-game home losing streak that is their longest since a 13-game slide from 1976-77. Jacksonville, however, has one interception after tying for the fewest in the league with six in 2014.
"My job is definitely going to be to take care of the football," Winston said. "I have great players around me on this team that can make plays, so I just have to protect the football."
Bortles has been inconsistent in his second season. He had arguably his best half in 17 career starts last Sunday when he completed 14 of 18 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown in the opening two quarters.
But he couldn’t lead the Jaguars to any points while connecting on 43.8 percent of his attempts in the second half and overtime. That’s been a troubling trend as Bortles has the NFL’s 10th-best first-half passer rating (99.7) but worst second-half mark (59.2).
"It’s the same game plan with the same players running each play, so it’s kind of hard to figure out why the lack of execution happens in the second half," he said. "But I think it all comes back to paying attention to detail and staying locked in throughout the game."
Julius Thomas would be a welcome addition to the passing game, but he isn’t expected to make his Jaguars debut despite practicing this week for the first time since breaking his hand in the preseason. He has 24 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Second-year wideout Allen Hurns, though, will try to build on his career highs of 11 receptions – including an eight-yard touchdown – and 116 yards against the Colts.
Jacksonville should be able to get T.J. Yeldon going in the running game. The rookie is coming off his best game as a pro with 105 yards on 22 carries last weekend.
Tampa Bay is tied for second in the NFL with 185.5 passing yards allowed per game but has been vulnerable against the run, ranking 30th with an average of 136.8 allowed.
The Jaguars, last in the AFC with 62 points, are missing a key man up front with right guard Brandon Linder going on injured reserve because of a torn labrum in his shoulder.
Both clubs have had trouble in the kicking game. Jacksonville rookie Jason Myers missed two chances to win last week’s game in overtime, while Tampa Bay’s Kyle Brindza was released after missing two field-goal attempts and an extra point. Connor Barth was brought in for his third stint with the Buccaneers earlier this week.
The Jaguars have won the last four meetings, including 41-14 at home in the last matchup in 2011.