Maybe they should be used to this by now. But facing young, relatively inexperienced quarterbacks, something defenses are supposed to fatten up on, has not been a positive for the John Fox Bears. And now here comes another one.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston will be one of four first-or-second-year starting quarterbacks on the Bears’ 2016 schedule, following Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles), Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys) and ahead of Marcus Mariota, who arrives to Soldier Field in two weeks leading the Tennessee Titans. The Bears lost to the first two.
And last year the Bears were outscored 61-37 in two losses to the Minnesota Vikings and second-year quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. They managed to escape Tampa with a win despite Winston’s 295 passing yards and two touchdown passes, and defeated the Oakland Raiders and second-year quarterback Derek Carr, albeit only through a Robbie Gould field goal with two seconds remaining.
Brock Osweiler wasn’t a rookie or second-year guy in 2015 but he was starting his first NFL game last season when he and the Denver Broncos defeated the Bears, 17-15, in Chicago.
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 draft, has not produced the impact of some others among the kid-QB corps. His passer rating (85.4) is about what it was his rookie season (84.2), his completion percentage remains sub-60 and his interception rate again hovers near 3 percent — all numbers not up to the performances of the others mentioned above.
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But Winston is seeing differences. After losing three straight, Winston brought the Bucs to .500 with road wins over the Carolina Panthers and San Francisco 49ers before stumbling the last two weeks in home losses to the Raiders and Atlanta Falcons.
“The goal is to get better every day, so I'm definitely ahead as far as my preparation from last year to this year,” Winston said on Wednesday. “I don't really see a difference in other teams as far as scheming against us. The difference for me as a player is just being able to process information and just being very familiar with the playbook.”
The early performance of a young quarterback again is worth considering given the likelihood of the Bears investing a high-round pick in one in the 2017 draft.
That involves a commitment, as Bucs coach Dirk Koetter knows from being Tampa Bay offensive coordinator last year when the decision to go with Winston over Mariota was made.
“That’s an entire organization decision,” Koetter recalled. “So that goes from ownership, management, down into coaching. And I would think that you would be signing up for patience.
“I was the offensive coordinator when we drafted Jameis and lucky to be that. But the whole patience thing, that’s sometimes in other people’s hands. So I look at Carolina as a good example in our [NFC South] division. They drafted a quarterback [Cam Newton]. They drafted a middle linebacker [Luke Kuechly]. They built around those guys. I think [Carolina is] a good model for us as someone who has been in the division for five years now.”