-The last time the Buccaneers saw the Saints, Drew Brees was still the quarterback and it was a win-or-go-home game in the divisional round of the 2020 playoffs. We know how that ended up. But this time around, they'll see another familiar face under center in Jameis Winston, who commanded the Bucs' huddles for five seasons before Tom Brady's arrival. He'll be operating a completely different offense in New Orleans, which means he'll look a little bit different, too.
"He's probably throwing it 15 times less a game," said Head Coach Bruce Arians of his former pupil. "They're playing with a lead, and we didn't have that many leads that [season], so we had to throw it. So, yeah, he's playing very, very well at the position."
That's much to the delight of his former teammates, who genuinely want Winston to do well when he isn't playing them – perhaps none more than his former tight end and still current buddy, Cam Brate.
"Jameis is a good guy, still a guy I'm super close with, talk to him all the time," said Brate. "[I] always watch him when I can. [It] definitely will be different. Last year during the playoffs, he went in for the one play and threw a touchdown pass. Obviously at the time, I was pissed that we gave up a touchdown but secretly I was like, 'Ah, good for Jameis making a play there.' But still a guy a lot of guys on the team are close with. Can say nothing but good things about our time with Jameis. I always wish him the best, but not Sunday."
And though Winston still has many friends on this team, that doesn't mean they don't want to get after him. Take Jason Pierre-Paul, for example.
"I can't wait, I can't wait," Pierre-Paul said about going against Winston and the Saints this weekend. "I'm actually going to text him and tell him to get ready. I can't wait to play Jameis. It's going to be fun. He's like a brother to me. I remember we were hiking in the offseason in Colorado, but I can't wait to hunt him down. It's crazy, Jameis is a different type of breed."
It's funny because I think a lot of people would say the same of Pierre-Paul. Still, the off the field familiarity won't get you too far now that Winston has spent a year learning from Brees and two years learning a Sean Payton offense.
"It's been a couple of years, but Jameis, he makes a lot of plays," said safety Jordan Whitehead. "He has a great arm and throws it deep, so we'll have chances. He's playing [well], making the right decisions, making smart reads, running the ball [well]. It's going to be a good test and I'm excited to get back and play against him."
-Something that's remained constant about the Saints is their top-tier defense, which ranks third against the run and eighth overall. Arians had nothing but praise for the unit on Wednesday when asked what the biggest challenge will be in New Orleans.
"The entire defense," he said. "This is by far the best 11 that we've faced this year. The front seven – Demario Davis is one of the best there is, the same with Cam Jordan. So, this is a big physical defense with a great secondary. Yeah, the defense stands out. Their special teams are outstanding and they're a challenge. Offensively, [Marquez] Callaway…it all starts with 41 (Alvin Kamara). You've got to stop 41. If Alvin's running around, we've got problems."
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