When you hear certain phrases in the NFL, many fans and players alike cringe and run for the hills. Anyone who was featured on the cover of the video game Madden ended up having a VERY forgettable year due to lack of production or injury. Thus began the dreaded “The Madden Curse”. Another phrase that has been getting a ton of focus recently is “The Sophomore Slump” and it’s regarding a player’s production significantly dropping off in their second year of play in the NFL. However, ‘The Curse’ is more coincidence than jinx and ‘The Slump’ is a much more complex than happenstance.
Bucs fans are specifically concerned with 2nd year QB Jameis Winston, coming into his sophomore season and the proverbial slump season. After his record setting rookie season, Winston is primed for a drop in production. Jameis threw just over 4,000 yards, something that isn’t a normal feat for NFL QB’s, let alone rookies. Adding 22 TDs through the air just added to his amazing inaugural season. Replicating his rookie success is going to be a tall order, especially now that NFL teams have game film to build a way to stop him. Just ask Matt Ryan, Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick how easy it is to mirror their rookie seasons, players who Slumped hard in their 2nd go around.
Thinking back to Jameis Winston’s collegiate career, he also had a significant drop off in production. One glaring factor that contributed to this lack of output was FSU sending 11 starters to the NFL between seasons. However, that wasn’t the NFL and there are many factors in play benefiting the future of the franchise QB. One being his number one wide receiver Mike Evans entering his 3rd year and coming out of a 1,200 receiving yard 3 TD “slump” of his own. Not so much the yards, but his lack of entering the endzone was the slump there. Evans will be primed for 2016 to be a dangerous wide receiver quarterback combination that any fantasy footballer is looking for. Secondly, the Bucs offensive line mollywhopped most of the defenses it faced all year long producing a 2nd placed rusher and allowing 4th least sacks in the NFL. They are returning the majority of their players and can’t wait to start off where they left off in 2015 by beating down anyone in their path. Third, returning said 2nd best rusher Doug Martin will keep offenses on their toes and put goosebumps on opposing defenses. The Dougernaught has not had back to back successful seasons in his career yet, but he also hasn’t had the offensive line continuity that Tampa boasts now. Jameis will not be the rule in 2016, but the exception when it comes to “The Sophomore Slump”.
I bet you all think that I’m going to say, “yes, Jameis Winston will have a bad year in 2016”, or “the Buccaneers will remain the bottom feeders of the NFC South”. Whatever you’re thinking, put it in the back of your minds for a bit, as I’m going to agree with Big Drew’s take slightly. I’m not a superstitious person in regards to sports; lots of teams have sub par seasons after making deep playoff runs or winning the chip. I mean it happens in every sport, and like Andrew, I’m just not a believer in the dreaded “Sophomore Slump”. Jameis did have good season his rookie year, and with the added weapons on both sides of the ball, there’s no reason to doubt that the young QB will be even better.
However (you knew it was coming), you have to think about how much better other teams fared in free agency and the draft. Now mind you, the jury is out on all rookies as there’s no telling how truly NFL ready they are or will be. But if you look at Tampa Bay’s schedule for 2016, its not exactly a walk in the park. They have match-ups against both the AFC and NFC West divisions, and last I checked those aren’t exactly walks in the park (Kansas City and Arizona are both road games…!). Factor in a couple of face-offs against stout the defenses of Denver and Seattle, and I foresee a few stumbling blocks that might hinder some progress for Winston and the crew.
Oh, and then there’s the usual games against the division rivals. Carolina still looks poised to capture the division again, and Atlanta and New Orleans are looking for redemption after having sub-par seasons, respectively. Don’t get me wrong, you’ll never hear me say that it’s impossible that Famous Jameis and that high powered offense will survive what lies ahead of them. Looking at this schedule, this will truly be a test to see what the club is truly made of. While I believe they will exceed 6-10, on paper, the Bucs look like they may remain on the outside looking in come playoff time.
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