SANTA CLARA — There is no lack of respect for Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston from the 49ers coaching staff. He may have been inconsistent in his play historically, but they know what he is capable of.
Winston’s 2018 game stats range from excellent to dismal. In his Week 8 loss to the Bengals, he completed only 18 of his 35 pass attempts, throwing a touchdown and four interceptions for a passer rating of 47.7.
Winston took over for a struggling Ryan Fitzpatrick in the Bucs' Week 11 loss to the New York Giants. He completed 12 of his 16 pass attempts, throwing two touchdowns and an interception for a rating of 129.9.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said he respects what Winston can do.
“I know he’s been rusty at times this year,” Shanahan told reporters Wednesday, “which all guys are when they can’t practice or are out of the building for I think about a month was what it was. He always lets it rip. He always tries to make plays.
“But, he’s been a little off in some games, which have led to some picks. But, he’s come back in and given them a chance to win some games. Jameis is a guy that also, when nothing is there, he’s made some plays that I didn’t think people could make. He can be as good as anyone in this league and that’s why we’ve got to play very well.”
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Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh also complimented Winston’s talent. Saleh implied the defense needs to be ready for what Winston is capable of.
“Jameis is a very good quarterback,” Saleh said. “He’s going to sling it. He’s very aggressive with the ball. Obviously, they’ve got great receivers. The running back is actually pretty talented also. The O-Line is good. So, it’s a challenge.”
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Even though the Bucs are 3-10, they recorded over 500 yards of offense in five games. They averaged 458 yards of offense in the first 10 games, predominantly in the air.
The Buccaneers led the league with 3,610 passing yards entering Week 12. They also threw 23 interceptions, the most in the NFL.
Winston himself was responsible 1,380 passing yards and 11 picks over the five games he played. Saleh said the secondary has their work cut out for them.
“They’re number one in the NFL for a reason," Saleh said. "With as many yards as they rack up, they can do it in a hurry. So, it’s going to be a great challenge for us. Jameis is no different. When he played, they put 500 up when he was the starting quarterback also. So, it’s no different. They score and move the ball almost at will. It’s going to be a great challenge for us this week.”
Saleh knows that the defense needs to create turnovers. He believes they have been close, and it's only a matter of time before the ball finally starts bouncing the 49ers' way.
“I wish there was a magic button you could press," Saleh said. "Everybody in the league would push it and turnovers would happen. But, we’ve had our opportunities. I know it’s very hard to see when you’re not winning football games and the results aren’t happening. It’s very hard to see.
"I think we’re 15th in forced fumbles so the ball’s on the ground, we’re getting balls, we’re getting our hands on them. We’ve had multiple dropped interceptions and eventually the tide has got to change and the ball has got to start bouncing our way. So, we’ve just got to keep plugging, keep being mindful of the ball and the message that Kyle preaches every day that the ball is everything. Eventually it will flip, hopefully soon.”