Game Review: Winston and Mariota

The first two picks in this year's NFL Draft made their debuts last weekend in preseason games. Both Winston and Mariota started for their respective teams, and while neither played that well, they flashed enough to know that there will be improvement as they gain experience. Tampa Bay at Minnesota In the Tampa Bay at Minnesota game, Winston played the entire first half for the Bucs. He played in seven series, and I felt that in only two of those series he played well and looked comfortable. On his opening drive, the Bucs ran on the first four downs. On his only pass, he was off target on a comeback route to the tight end. I thought his read was poor in that the tight end was double covered. On the next series, he attempted two passes and was off target on both. He threw behind Mike Evans on a skinny post and then was short on a comeback route. His third series was probably his best of the game. While he got sacked on first down, he came back on third and 15 to hit Vincent Jackson on a deep post for about 40 yards. He then hit a play action roll out for 18 more yards. His next two throws were off target, but he did get the Bucs into positon to kick a field goal. The fourth series lasted all of one play. He over threw Evans and it got intercepted, setting up a Vikings score. The next series wasn’t much better, as he was short on a deep throw to Evans and fumbled the snap while in a shotgun formation and took a sack. On the next series, he, again, fumbled a snap, this time from under center. On his final drive of the half, he hit four passes in a row showing the ability to find the open man and throwing with accuracy. He finished the drive when he scrambled eight yards for a score. All told, I feel Winston needs to tighten his delivery a bit. His long throwing motion gives defensive backs a chance to jump the route. He also had a tendency to stare down his receiver before making the throw. That said, it was his first game, and I’m sure he was nervous. Hopefully, he shows improvement next week. Tennessee at Atlanta While Winston played the entire first half in the Tampa Bay game, Mariota only played the opening quarter in the Titans loss to Atlanta. Being that Mariota will be the starter on opening day, I would have liked to see him get more playtime in his debut. Mariota started out well, completing his first throw on a play action throw. The play was from a spread formation with a read option play fake (just like he did at Oregon). On his next throw, he hit Anthony Fasano for a short four yard gain. Following a sack, he tried a screen pass and gave the play away, allowing the defender to jump the throw and intercept the ball. The next series was three and out when, on an attempted pass, Mariota got striped of the ball before he could get the throw off. Atlanta picked up the loose ball and scored. On the following series, Mariota looked his best, hitting all five throws for a total of 78 yards setting up a Tennessee touchdown. I felt Mariota showed remarkable poise coming back from the two previous mistakes to look very good on the touchdown drive. All told, Mariota hit seven of eight throws for 94 yards and the one interception. While most of his throws were from a shotgun formation, he did throw some when playing under center. Mariota has a compact delivery with a quick release and very good arm strength. This Sunday versus St. Louis, I hope that Mariota plays at least a half. Follow Greg on Twitter @greggabe

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