THE Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Jameis Winston to make room for Tom Brady after the 2019 season.
The plan for Brady to add a sixth Super Bowl title to the five he won as quarterback of the New England Patriots worked in Brady’s first season in Tampa.
Meanwhile, Winston signed with the New Orleans Saints, backed up Drew Brees last season and now has replaced the retired Brees as the starter.
Brady and Winston will start against each other for the first time since those changes as Tampa Bay (6-1) visits New Orleans (4-2) in a key NFC South match-up Sunday.
At age 44, Brady rolls on, having thrown his 600th career touchdown pass in a 38-3 rout of Chicago last week.
“You’re not going to throw anything at him he hasn’t seen,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said of Brady.
Tampa Bay’s offense has been clicking in four home games, averaging 40.5 points. But Arians would like to see improvement on the road, where the Bucs are averaging 23.7 points in three games.
He said the key to improved offensive play away from home is “eliminating penalties and communications problems.”
The Caesars Superdome isn’t the ideal venue for a visiting team to sort out communication problems.
“It’s so much easier to communicate when you’re at home,” Arians said. “This one’s going to be crazy — a Halloween in New Orleans. So communication will be paramount this week.”
Arians is hopeful that some injured key players will return this week. Tight end Rob Gronkowski (ribs), linebacker Lavonte David (ankle) and cornerback Richard Sherman (hamstring) returned to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday.
New Orleans, which didn’t practice on Wednesday after playing on Monday night in Seattle, is also getting key players back — in addition to re-acquiring veteran running back Mark Ingram from the Houston Texans on Wednesday afternoon.
Ingram, 31, a Saints 2011 first-round pick (28th overall), played for New Orleans through 2018, scoring 55 touchdowns and rushing for 6,007 yards in 106 games played.
Also for the Saints, defensive end Marcus Davenport, center Erik McCoy and tackle Terron Armstead returned from injury to start in the 13-10 victory over the Seahawks, but guard Andrus Peat was lost to a pectoral injury that might sideline him for the season.
Pro Bowl kicker Wil Lutz announced this week that he won’t return this season after suffering a setback from core muscle surgery that has sidelined him since training camp.
Brian Johnson made his National Football League (NFL) debut on Monday and made both of his field-goal attempts, including a game-winner from 33 yards with 1:56 remaining, despite rain and windy conditions.
“He did a fantastic job,” coach Sean Payton said.
Defensive tackle David Onyemata returned this week from a six-game suspension for violating the NFL policy on PEDs during the offseason.
“He’s a significant part of what we do,” Payton said.
As for Winston, he has avoided the turnover problems that plagued him during five seasons in Tampa after being the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2015. He has 13 touchdowns and just three interceptions.
“I think Jameis has done a great job,” Armstead said. “He’s picking up the offense extremely well. There’s a lot to grasp. Drew ran this ship for 15 years.”
The Saints have been leaning even more heavily than usual on Alvin Kamara, who had 179 total yards on 30 touches against Seattle.
“He’s the offense,” Armstead said.
The Bucs are trying to end the Saints’ streak of four consecutive division titles. New Orleans won both regular-season meetings last season, including a 38-3 win in Tampa that was the worst loss of Brady’s career.
But Tampa won the game that mattered most — prevailing 30-20 in a divisional playoff game that wound up being the last game of Brees’ career. — Reuters