NASHVILLE, Tenn—*Dick LeBeau has faced—and frustrated—* hundreds of NFL quarterbacks in his 56 seasons in the NFL, as a player and a coach.
On Sunday, the defensive guru will see Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston for the first time when the Titans square off against the Buccaneers.
What's his plan?
"Hopefully we can cause him some problems,'' said LeBeau, hired this offseason as assistant head coach/defense with the Titans. "But basically we're just going to have to outplay 'em, which is pretty much the case every week. The way the college game is, (quarterbacks) get to see all the looks, but I don't think he has seen all the looks that he is going to see in the NFL. The good ones can usually find a way to get the ball where they want to get it, so we'll have to keep him from doing that."
Over the past four months, LeBeau's defense has worked against Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, the second overall pick of the NFL Draft, in practices.
Winston, taken first overall by the Bucs after an award-winning career at Florida State, offers a different type of challenge, LeBeau said. Even before the Titans had finished the preseason, LeBeau had started on his homework on Winston. Prior to the preseason finale against the Vikings, he was already looking forward to the challenge.
LeBeau wants to keep Winston guessing.
"I have been impressed throughout (Winston's) career at how many times he brought his football team back from behind. You do it once or twice and it is one thing, but to do it as many times as he's done it, you know you have a competitor and a guy who can perform when the pressure is on,'' LeBeau said.
"There's no question about what he can do athletically. He was the No.1 pick of the draft and you don't do that if you are not a pretty good athletic specimen."
While with the Steelers a year ago, LeBeau became familiar with some of Tampa Bay's personnel on offense when the teams met in Week 4 of the regular season. But things have changed since – the Buccaneers hired Dirk Koetter as their offensive coordinator in the offseason, and then drafted Winston.
LeBeau has watched film of Winston from his playing days in college, and he's also watched film from Tampa Bay's first four preseason games. Winston threw for 311 yards in the preseason, but completed just 48.9 percent of his passes with a passer rating of 52.7.
At Florida State, Winston went 26-1 in his two seasons as a starter. He threw for 7,964 yards and 65 touchdowns in 27 career games.
"He is a Heisman Trophy winner and a proven champion, so he is going to be a challenge,'' LeBeau said. "The league opener is always a challenge for everybody."
LeBeau said he was encouraged by the play of the defense during the preseason, especially with the improvement vs. the run. The work ethic and approach has also pleased him.
On Sunday, the Titans hope they can start fast in Tampa Bay when the regular season begins.
"It's a 16-round fight is what it is,'' LeBeau said. "And everybody says start fast, and it is good to start fast. But the book is full of teams that started 1-4 and went to the Super Bowl, so it only matters what your record is at the end of the year. But it makes it a hell of a lot easier if you get off the blocks and start putting some W's up there, and that is going to be every team's goal. We want to be one of the teams that realizes that goal.