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Bucs-Chiefs preview: Is Jameis Winston on the right track?

Thanks to Sander over at SB Nation’s Bucs blog, Bucs Nation, for answering my Bucs-Chiefs questions. Read our Q&A below.

1. Jameis Winston. Is he on the right trajectory to be a star?

I'd say so, but it's a bit of a bumpy and inconsistent trajectory. Winston is still very young (22!), and has produced many, many highlight-reel plays. There's a sense that his improvisational skills are ahead of his development as a passer right now -- he does have a good feel for the way routes develop and defenses respond to them, but there are a few too many inaccuracies in his throws for him to consistently exploit the weaknesses he seems to sense. His deep ball in particular still needs work.

That said, he's doing well and there's no reason to think he can't be a star if he continues like this. He's throwing more touchdowns and fewer interceptions per attempt than last season and has a higher completion percentage. He also has a few more sacks than last season, and had a rough start to the season, though. Overall, most of his problems just feel like the kind of things young but promising quarterbacks go through, and he certainly has the potential to turn into a star sooner or later.

2. Which offensive weapons should the Chiefs be concerned against?

Mike Evans. Mike Evans. Some more Mike Evans. And ehm, yeah, Mike Evans.

Really, that's about it. The Bucs have a few other productive players -- Cameron Brate has been a useful intermediate safety blanket, and Adam Humphries can do some damage from the slot -- but no one can come close to Evans. Which is why you see defenses focus very, very heavily on stopping him. They can't quite manage to do that, though, and all that focus creates space for player like Brate and Humphries.

One other player you may have to watch out for is Doug Martin, but it's unclear how well he's playing. He missed the vast majority of the season with a hamstring injury and only returned last game, when he still looked sluggish and not quite as agile as he usually does. He should be fully recovered now, but he has yet to consistently produce in any season, so there's no real sense that a defense has to prepare for him right now.

3. What does the Bucs defense do well?

That depends entirely on which game you're watching. Sometimes, the pass rush is on fire, as it was last week. Sometimes, the defensive backs are jumping routes over and over again, as they did against the Carolina Panthers earlier this year. And then at other times they'll get shredded for 500 yards and can't seem to stop anyone from scoring. I've seen some bad Bucs defenses in my time, but this has to be one of the most inconsistent ones, which makes it very hard to predict what will happen on any given Sunday.

4. Who is one Bucs player I don't know but will by the end of the game?

Russell Shepard. He's a fourth-year undrafted free agent out of LSU, who played quarterback in college but turned into a wide receiver/special teams ace in the NFL. He's made his money by hunting down punt and kick returners for the Bucs, and he's done that very well, but he's also made a mark when he's gotten a chance as a receiver. With Vincent Jackson out and Cecil Shorts struggling, Shepard has gotten several opportunities this season and has been productive when he's been on the field on offense. He missed the past two games but should be healthy now, and you'll probably see him trot out onto the field for a few plays -- the Bucs like targeting him in the red zone, too, which is why he has two touchdowns.

5. Your score prediction for the game?

It's a road game, so I think the Bucs probably walk away winners here. The Chiefs can't keep getting lucky, after all. It'll probably be very close, though, and it might be a sloppy, low-scoring, defense-dominated game. So how's about this: Bucs win, 17-14.

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