A week ago we noted in this space that everyone at the AdventHealth Training Center loves Antoine Winfield, Jr. Apparently that feeling extends beyond the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' headquarters, and well beyond the Bay area.
On Thursday, Winfield was named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for September. It is the third straight month that a Buccaneer has captured that award, as it went to inside linebacker Devin White in November and December of last season. Winfield is just the fourth Tampa Bay player ever to win Defensive Rookie of the Month honors, joining White, Noah Spence (November of 2016) and Lavonte David (November of 2012). Winfield is the first Buc to win the award in the opening month of a season.
Speaking of David, he was also named the NFC Defensive Player of the Month on Thursday, as the Buccaneers' defense is off to an impressive start.
Like David, Winfield has drawn early-season attention with his wide variety of contributions on defense. He has already racked up 23 tackles, two sacks, three quarterback hits, one tackle for loss, two passes defensed and a forced fumble. Among NFL rookies, Winfield ranks second in sacks, tied for second in tackles, tied for fourth in passes defensed, tied for eighth in tackles for loss and tied for first in forced fumbles. He is the only rookie to have already made a mark in all of those statistical categories.
Winfield's contributions have helped the Buccaneers get off to a 2-1 start and rank fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed. He stepped right into the starting lineup in Week One despite not having the opportunity to play in any preseason games or learn the defense during an extensive offseason program.
Winfield has also already demonstrated the remarkable versatility that has drawn him comparisons to veteran stars Tyrann Mathieu and Budda Baker. After playing free safety throughout the Buccaneers' first two games, Winfield opened the third contest at that position in Denver on Sunday but later moved to the slot corner spot after Sean Murphy-Bunting left with an injury. Winfield recorded a sack while blitzing out of the safety position and a pass defensed while blitzing out of the slot.
Winfield's forced fumble was a key play in the Buccaneers' Week Two win over Carolina. He chased down quarterback Teddy Bridgewater from behind in the second quarter and got him for a sack, freeing the football in the process. Jason Pierre-Paul recovered for the Buccaneers at the Panthers' 23 and Tom Brady hit Mike Evans on a touchdown pass on the very next play.
Winfield is the first Buccaneers defensive back to win a Player of the Month award. He was drafted in the second round out of the University of Minnesota in April as the 45th player selected overall.