Buccaneers’ Jameis Winston presents different challenge for Cardinals’ defense

Sep 16, 2016, 10:01 AM

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) seen,in Atlanta, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (Paul ...

Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) seen,in Atlanta, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2016. (Paul Abell/AP Images for Head & Shoulders)

(Paul Abell/AP Images for Head & Shoulders)

The Arizona Cardinals’ pass defense is dealing with a completely different set of circumstances from Week 1 to Week 2.

How the New England Patriots utilized Jimmy Garoppolo versus what the Cardinals will see when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers invade University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday are extreme opposites.

Bill Belichick devised a game plan to insulate and scheme around his first-time starter. Their play designs simplified the game for Garoppolo, trying to make things easy for him, and letting those around him do the heavy lifting.

It was successful.

The Cardinals weren’t as aggressive as they have been in the past — playing a lot of off-coverage that allowed Garoppolo to stick with his first read when a pass rush wasn’t generated. Arizona had some mental breakdowns (Brandon Williams) and some struggles with man-to-man coverage (Tyvon Branch).

If those issues persist, it could be an ugly game for the Cards’ secondary against the Buccaneers.

While New England got the ball out of Garoppolo’s hands as quick as possible, Tampa Bay allows Jameis Winston more freedom.

He frequently is making checks at the line and he holds onto the ball for longer developing plays that have him go through his reads.

Winston is relied on to make those around him better by throwing players open rather than counting on the play design to create the separation.

Look at the coverage at the time of release on Austin Seferian-Jenkins’ 30-yard touchdown catch:


And the coverage when Winston released the pass for Mike Evans’ 45-yard score:


Those throws take incredible accuracy, touch and anticipation to pull off. Winston’s mental game at the quarterback position can be extremely sharp.

Winston has the ability to embarrass the Cardinals in a way Garoppolo didn’t if they don’t clean up the mistakes in the secondary.

On the flip side, the way Winston plays is also going to open up more opportunities for the Arizona defense to come away with game-changing plays using their pass rush and forcing turnovers in the secondary.

He will be holding the ball longer as he scans the field and attempting to squeeze passes into tighter windows. There’s going to be one, two, three or maybe even more times when the Cardinals have chances to swing the game due to Winston’s confidence in his own ability. He’s more Brett Favre (take the good with the bad) than Aaron Rodgers (insanely consistent) at this point in his career.

For a second straight week the Cardinals’ secondary is going to be heavily scrutinized, and this week, the degree of difficulty is going up a notch.

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