Winston, Mariota wrap up Year 1
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jameis Winston will finish his rookie season doing something that Marcus Mariota simply couldn't: Playing in all 16 regular-season games.
Still, both managed at times to show the skills that made them the No. 1 and 2 picks, respectively, in the 2015 draft.
Winston enters Tampa Bay's season finale Sunday having taken every snap for the Buccaneers. Mariota, who will end up missing four games this season after spraining both knees, will sit out Tennessee's last game — his second in a row.
Tied together by their draft status and as back-to-back Heisman Trophy winners, Winston doubled up Mariota in victories (Buccaneers are 6-9; Titans are 3-12) and a handful of other stats.
Their next challenge comes this offseason.
"A year is great, but when you come in that second year, really, any rookie that comes in their second year, you do kind of take a deep breath like, 'OK, I fit. I belong,'" Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey said. "It's not new, the newness is gone."
Here's a look at how Winston and Mariota fared as rookies:
WINSTON: The Buccaneers quarterback is 283 yards shy of joining Cam Newton and Andrew Luck as the only rookie quarterbacks since the 1970 NFL/AFL merger to throw for 4,000 yards. Winston has thrown for 3,717 yards, which is fourth-most among rookies since the merger. He needs only 23 yards Sunday to pass Peyton Manning (3,739 yards in 1998) for third.
He also is Tampa Bay's third-leading rusher, running for 199 yards on 51 carries with five touchdowns. He's completed 58 percent of his passes with 22 touchdowns and 13 interceptions with an 86.1 passer rating. Better yet, the Bucs have allowed him to be sacked only 25 times.
MARIOTA: Sprained knees cost Mariota four games as a rookie, limiting him to 2,818 yards passing with 19 TDs and 10 interceptions. He completed 62.2 percent of his passes and posted a 91.5 passer rating. Only seven NFL quarterbacks were sacked more than Mariota who went down 38 times in his 12 starts.
"I'm my hardest critic, so I thought it's gone OK," Mariota said. "Obviously, would like a few more wins, but I mean all in all I wanted to come in and try to make an impact. I thought I've done that to some extent."
WINSTON: He got more help from his teammates in Tampa Bay. Doug Martin is the NFL's second-leading rusher with 1,354 yards, while Mike Evans has 1,107 yards receiving on 70 receptions.
MARIOTA: The Titans' top receiver is a tight end, though Delanie Walker has 994 yards receiving on 85 catches. Nobody else has more than 36 receptions. The Titans even used Mariota as a receiver once, and that turned into a 41-yard TD catch Dec. 13 against the Jets.
WINSTON: His worst moment came in Week 4 when Carolina intercepted him four times and forced him to fumble. That loss dropped the Bucs to 1-3. Winston helped the Bucs win four of their next six to reach 5-5 before losing four of the last five. This is the fifth straight losing season for the Bucs.
"Definitely, this is a growing process," Winston said. "Just one year, I'm not going to be able to stay there. I have to keep getting better, I've got to keep being a better person and a better teammate."
MARIOTA: The Miami Dolphins sacked Mariota five times by halftime, forcing him into four turnovers. Mariota also lost his starting center in that game when Brian Schwenke dislocated his left ankle. Worse? Mariota sprained the MCL in his left knee and played until inside the final two minutes. Mariota missed the next two games with his coach, Ken Whisenhunt fired before he returned.
WINSTON: With the Bucs trailing Atlanta 19-16 with less than three minutes to go, Winston kept the game-winning TD drive alive with his legs. On third-and-19 from the Falcons 43, Winston scrambled 20 yards for first down breaking three tackles. He appeared stopped at the 33 only to slide off the pile, break another tackle and run 10 more yards for the first down.
He capped the drive with a 6-yard TD pass to Mike Evans for a 23-19 win, lifting Tampa Bay to 6-6.
MARIOTA: His debut in Tampa Bay against Winston was perfection. He posted a perfect passer rating and became the first NFL rookie to throw four TD passes in one half. But Mariota topped himself Dec. 6. He finally showed off his legs, breaking off an 87-yard TD run to rally the Titans to a 42-39 win over Jacksonville, snapping an 11-game home skid.
The Titans quarterback became the first in NFL history with at least 250 yards passing, 100 yards rushing and three TD passes in the same game.