Looking ahead to Week 1 of the NFL season, there are plenty of intriguing match-ups – none more so, perhaps, than Tampa Bay hosting Tennessee this Sunday.
All right, we know what you’re thinking: How is it possible that the most intriguing Week 1 matchup involves two teams that finished a combined 4-28 last season? Well, it’s simple. Those two teams had the top two picks in the draft, and both selected quarterbacks who will begin the season atop the depth chart.
But these aren’t just any two quarterbacks. These are the last two Heisman Trophy winners. These are two guys who squared off in the Rose Bowl just eight months ago – guys who are expected to be saviors of their respective franchises.
That’s a lot to live up to.
While Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota had their ups and downs in the preseason, Greg Cosell believes the Oregon product will outshine his Florida State counterpart in their rookie season.
“I think Winston is going to be a little bit hamstrung by his O-Line,” Cosell, the NFL Films senior producer, said on CBS Sports Radio’s Gio and Jones. “Winston is a quarterback that needs an O-Line. He’s a little bit deliberate. He doesn’t have great feet. Sometimes his feet don’t catch up to his body and he makes inaccurate throws. I think that Jameis had a real tendency in the preseason to stare things down – which, by the way, is very common. None of this is surprising to me. I know for some people it may be. None of this is surprising to me. But I think Winston’s going to be in a tough situation if they can’t run the ball really effectively – because that O-Line, to be kind, is a work in progress.”
Indeed, the Buccaneers averaged just 85.9 rushing yards per game last season (29th in the NFL) and allowed 52 sacks (third most in football). The Titans weren’t much better in either category – 90.4 rushing yards per game (26th) and 50 sacks allowed (sixth most) – but Mariota has something that Winston does not:
Excellent mobility in the pocket.
“I was impressed with Mariota in the preseason,” Cosell said. “He’s a different player than Winston. He’s a quick-twitch, dynamic athlete. I thought he threw the ball very well, his arm strength was very good, and he’s very compact.”
It appeared that way in the preseason, at least.
“Now, as you guys know, you talk to anybody: the regular season and the preseason are two totally different deals,” Cosell said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if either of these guys struggle early. I’m a little more concerned about Winston just because of the style of quarterback he is and the team that he’s on.”
Whatever happens, we’ll start getting answers to our questions soon enough. Kickoff from Raymond James Stadium is Sunday at 4:25 p.m. ET.