TEMPE, Ariz. -- If Jameis Winston and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers can run their record to 2-0 this week by handing the Arizona Cardinals their first 0-2 start in 11 years, Bruce Arians may have no one to blame but himself.
Winston, after all, got his urge to make it to the NFL and be great by attending an Arians-run youth football camp as a ninth grade back when Arians was offensive coordinator for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Memories from those days continue to be an inspiration to the Buccaneers' second-year quarterback, who will lead Tampa Bay (1-0) against Arizona (0-1) Sunday afternoon at University of Phoenix Stadium.
"Absolutely," Winston said. "Absolutely. One thing I remember about Coach Arians is he's one of the first people that gave me the dream of getting a Super Bowl. At the camp he brought his Pittsburgh Steelers ring and showed all of us his ring, and that was one of the first times when I was just like, 'Man, I want to get me one of those rings. I want to get me a Super Bowl ring.' "
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A loss to Winston and the Bucs could put a serious crimp into the Cardinals' title hopes after they nearly got their a year ago, going 13-3 during the regular season and advancing to the NFC Championship before getting flattened by the Carolina Panthers.
As bad as that loss stung, Sunday night's 23-21 season-opening loss to an undermanned New England Patriots team hurt just the same. There were mistakes made across the board by the Cardinals and the Patriots may have helped other teams expose a few holes in Arizona's schemes, particularly on offense.
Could opposing defensive coordinators be catching on to what the Cardinals do so well?
"Teams make adjustments, no doubt," quarterback Carson Palmer said. "There's certain things every team does well and everybody tries to take away whatever the top two or three things they do in the pass game or run game. I don't see that being an issue with us at all."
The Patriots, however, seemed to take away most of Palmer's deep pass play options.
"This is the NFL," Palmer said. "You're not going to come in and just throw the ball deep every series and hit them. We're still going to take our shots. We're still going to get them."
Winston and the Buccaneers aren't afraid to look for the deep ball, either, as was the case during their 31-24 victory in Week 1 over the Atlanta Falcons. Winston was 23 of 33 for 281 yards and four touchdowns, including a 45-yard scoring pass to Mike Evans. For his efforts, Winston was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Winston will look to Evans and Vincent Jackson to help try and disjoint the Cardinals' secondary, specifically at cornerback where rookie Brandon Williams has been starting opposite All-Pro Patrick Peterson. Williams got burned a handful of times by the Patriots and Winston surely will be looking to pick on him if he's still in the starting lineup.
Arians was impressed with Winston's performance against the Falcons, but he's seen greatness coming for a long time in the se3cond-year pro.
"I've known him for a long time," Arians said. "(Heck) of an athlete, turned into a great quarterback. A good leader, really, really bright guy, a 4.0 student, extremely accurate. He's obviously making a really nice step. He made a great step as a rookie, but he's really making a nice step this year, with the way he played this last week."
Asked what he remembers of Winston form that youth football camp years ago, Arians said, "It was a heck of a camp. We had about four guys in that camp that went to the NFL. Ameer Abdullah, I think, won the athlete of the week. It was a nice camp with a bunch of good, young players."
The Cardinals have one of those in second-year running back David Johnson, who emerged last season as one of Arizona's primary offensive weapons. In six career regular-season starts, Johnson leads the NFL in both rushing yards (531) and total yards (790).
Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter called him "impressive."
"I loved him coming out of Northern Iowa. I liked this guy a lot," Koetter said. "He's a complete back -- big, strong, fast; a really good receiver. He can do everything you want your back to do. This game coming up is going to be a matchup of two really good feature backs, in him and our guy, Doug Martin. He's continued to get better and we know that we definitely have our hands full with him."
Arizona defense, which excelled at forcing turnovers a year ago, can be just as dangerous, Koetter said.
"You see a defense that's very aggressive overall," he said. "That's been their history there. When I was in Atlanta, we played Arizona multiple times and you know you're always going to be in for a fast, physical game. They're big, they're strong, they're long; very aggressive. They're not afraid to pressure you at any place on the field. It's just something that if you're not ready to go, they're going to run you out of the building."
One player who has yet to show his full range of playmaking abilities is safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is easing his way back after undergoing major knee surgery in the winter. He's playing more as a straight center fielder in the secondary; not as the unpredictable blitzer and wild tackler and ball hawk the NFL is used to seeing.
"I'm still trying to get back in rhythm," Mathieu said. "It's a new challenge for me. I'm just trying to embrace it and accept it. ... I think in the next couple weeks hopefully, I'm where I need to be and I can make that transition."