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Antoine Winfield Jr. Expects Improvements, No Sophomore Slump

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Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. is one of the rare NFL players who both won a Super Bowl in his rookie season and actually contributed to the team in a meaningful way in that first season. A second-round pick out of Minnesota in the 2020 draft, Winfield finished the season with 94 tackles, three sacks, and a handful of interceptions, including a pick in the Super Bowl.

Moving into his second season on a team that’s trying to repeat as champions, Winfield sees his own personal maturity improving.

“I feel like most of my improvement is just mental,” Winfield said. “That first year, they throw so many things out at you and just learning the scheme and things like that. But after being in the system for a year, I just feel like mentally my game is just sharper and a little bit better than last year so that’s where I feel the best at.”

Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles agrees, saying that Winfield has all of the physical talent necessary to be a longtime NFL player, and that his mentality will make the difference.

“Just the mental growth of the game,” Bowles said of Winfield’s offseason improvement. “We both know he left some plays out there on the field last year. He’s doing his job and playing his position, but he can expand on that, and he will. He has already some in camp. Just knowing the overall defense and knowing where he can cheat and take advantage of his plays and not just use his athletic ability.”

While Winfield is expected to see significant playing time this season, Bowles made sure to emphasize the competition element in camp, as well. In other words, nothing is set in stone, even for standout rookies. They, too, have to show up every day and improve; otherwise, the team has no chance to repeat as NFL champions.

“When I was a player, the door was always open for anybody to take a spot,” Bowles said. “You have to make me notice you, and as coaches, you have to show yourself when we put you out there to make plays in certain situations. So you’re the starter until somebody plays better than you and replaces you. If nobody plays better than you, you’re probably going to be the starter.”

Written by TK Sanders

TK is a southerner who has lived on both coasts and definitely prefers sunshine to snow. A former entertainment executive in Los Angeles, he was run out of Hollywood for misgendering a director's dog, and is now forced to blog for a living. Breaking 80 will always be his number one goal in life.

Follow him on Twitter @outkicktommy.

4 Comments

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  1. Winfield could be a star for years to come. Reminds me of another Gopher named Gable Steveson who might’ve staged the greatest comeback in Olympic wrestling history to win gold. Hes a hard worker and is consistently respectful to the flag and to the United States.

    Why has there been crickets about Steveson on Outkick? He’s a rockstar!

  2. This TB secondary under Bowles improved a shitload last year. Brady is great but this last season doesn’t happen without Bowles and the improvements made in the span of 2 years. Gonna be nice next year.

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