Bucs faced with dilemma as Fitzpatrick thriving during Winston suspension
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off wins against the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles in the first two weeks of the season.
"Our team is doing well," Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "Our team is doing something that not many thought it could. We have a good locker room. Our guys believe in each other right now."
A major part of the early-season success has been the play of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. In Week 1 against the Saints he threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. In Week 2 vs. the Eagles he threw for 402 yards and four more touchdowns, although he did have an interception.
Fitzpatrick is only starting because former No. 1 pick Jameis Winston is serving a three-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
So what will the team do if Fitzpatrick plays another strong game Monday night against a Pittsburgh Steelers defense that is leaking like a sieve?
"I won't be the one getting into that," Koetter said. "We'll worry about that when the time comes. Right now, we're going to start working on Pittsburgh and that's all that matters right now. Everything else is in the future because it could all change just like that."
Since the start of the 2017 season, when Fitzpatrick joined Tampa Bay, he is 144 of 224 (64.3 percent) for 1,922 yards with 15 touchdowns and just four interceptions. His passer rating is 104.3 and he is 4-1 as starter.
"His numbers are off the charts," Koetter said.
By contrast, Winston is 282 of 442 (63.8 percent) for 3,504 yards with 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 92.2, but is just 3-10 as starter.
But the dilemma is, Fitzpatrick is a 35-year-old journeyman on a one-year contract who was signed to back up Winston. Winston is a 24-year-old former Heisman Trophy winner who the Bucs have built their team around.
As Koetter said, the Bucs will worry about who starts when the time comes, but in a league as cut-throat as the NFL, look for Fitzpatrick to hold onto the reins as long as the team is winning and he is performing.
--WR DeSean Jackson has nine catches for 275 yards and three touchdowns the past two weeks after having 50 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns in 14 games last season.
--LB Kwon Alexander registered forced a fumble when he sacked Eagles QB Nick Foles on Sunday. Alexander now has two forced fumbles this season and six in his career. He now has seven career sacks.
--DE Jason Pierre-Paul recorded his first sack as a Buccaneer on Sunday. He now has 59.5 career sacks.
--WR Mike Evans has two touchdown catches this season and 34 in his career, tying TE Jimmie Giles for the most touchdown receptions in team history.
--LB Lavonte David led the team with nine tackles on Sunday. He also had a fumble recovery on the final play of the game. Since 2012, David has 12 fumble recoveries, which is the most in the NFL.