With plenty of help surrounding him, Winston is facing the biggest season of his young career.
Since being drafted first overall in the 2015 NFL draft, Jameis Winston has failed to live up to expectations.
In three seasons, Winston has become one of the most inconsistent passers in the league, while also failing to make the postseason a single time. Earlier in his career, excuses were made that he didn’t have enough help surrounding him.
The Buccaneers gave Winston the help he needed last offseason by signing one of the best deep threats in the NFL in DeSean Jackson, who leads the league in deep receiving yards since 2013. They built off this acquisition by drafting more help for Winston in the 2017 NFL draft; Tampa used their first-round pick on tight end OJ Howard and their third-round pick on wide receiver Chris Godwin.
Coming off of a 9-7 record in 2016 and returning a top 15 scoring defense, the Buccaneers were expected to push into playoff contention with added talent centered around Winston.
However, this was far from the case. Tampa Bay took a big step back last year, finishing with a 5-11 record, mostly because their quarterback didn’t progress the way they anticipated.
Winston only played in 13 games, and even when he was on the field, he was erratic with the football. He posted an adjusted completion percentage of 70.8, which was 27th in the NFL last season. This wasn’t because of those around him, as his receivers had only 16 drops all season long, good for fifth best in the NFL.
With the arm Winston has, he shouldn’t be this inaccurate with the football. He has shown that he is capable of making the toughest throws a quarterback can make, but he somehow continuously fails to do it consistently.
Just last season, Winston ranked fourth in overall accuracy on tight window throws, according to Pro Football Focus. It’s a great part of Winston’s game that he can make these tough throws, but he relies on this aspect far too often.
Winston’s biggest problem is his decision-making. He ranks fifth highest in the NFL in attempting tight window throws, which shows that he is constantly throwing into traffic.
In order for Winston to improve his consistency, he needs to make the simple throws more often rather than trying to force the ball into every tight window he can. This would also improve his turnover numbers as well, which weren’t nearly as bad last year as they could have been.
Winston had 11 interceptions in 13 games, but PFF ranked him 38th among quarterbacks in turnover-worthy plays, which indicates that this number could have easily been way higher had defenses capitalized on his bad decision-making.
The one area where the Buccaneers have struggled the most the past couple seasons is at running back. Their rushing attack last year was 27th in the league. Tampa Bay has done their best to solve this issue by using their high second-round draft pick on Ronald Jones II, who they envision as their starting running back of the future.
Winston no longer has any excuses. He has the weapons around him, he has an above-average defense, and he is going into what is shaping up to be the biggest season of his career. He must lead his team to the postseason this year, or it will be considered a failure.
Fellow 2015 draft pick Marcus Mariota has also had his struggles with being inconsistent (only 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions last year), but even he has led the Tennessee Titans to the playoffs, including an upset road playoff victory at Kansas City last postseason.
If Winston fails to lead the Buccaneers to the postseason because of his poor decision-making and recklessness with the football, it will result in him being labeled a bust.
Edited by Jazmyn Brown.
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