Bucs' QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
With All-Pro linebacker Von Miller and Brandon Marshall closing in during the first quarter of the Bucs’ matchup with the Broncos, a missed blocking assignment turned into a slide, a juke and a seven-yard touchdown run for second-year quarterback Jameis Winston.
It’s a narrative that has become rather standard in association with Winston.
Despite his eight interceptions through four games in 2016, when it comes to avoiding the blitz and getting the ball downfield, Winston has excelled and taken care of the ball.
Winston has been blitzed on 41 percent drop backs (80 times) this season, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN. It’s the highest rate in the league — with Green Bay Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers close behind at 38 percent.
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images
On those pressure drop backs, Winston has a league-leading quarterback rating of 88.3, six points higher than the next highest quarterback (Oakland’s Derek Carr).
“Everything is a mindset on a football field, but it’s a choice,” Winston said. “I have a lot of decisions out there so my choice is I have to protect the football.”
Winston has been able to do just that when blitzed, throwing for three of his eight touchdowns and no interceptions with a rating of 94.0 — fourth best in the NFL according to ESPN.
When he’s not blitzed, Winston is 29th in the NFL with a rating of 49.0.
“No. You know, actually, when things aren’t going good, I actually get more happier because I’m able calm down and relax,” Winston said. “I probably do better in chaos than I do when things are just regular.
“I embrace that. Adversity is something I always looked at as being one of my best attributes.”
With a 6-foot-4, 231-pound frame, Winston is able stand firm in the pocket without worrying too much about taking a hit. But when the play breaks down — as it has many times this season — his athletic ability allows him to extend plays.
“He’s a guy that can move around in the pocket that doesn’t mind people hanging on him and hitting him,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly told the Tampa media via conference call on Wednesday. “You see it time and time again him in the pocket and guys got their hands and arms all over him and he’s able to get out.
“You can’t quit on routes down the field because you never know when he’s gonna scoot out and throw it down there.”
Winston has seen his most success against packages with three defensive backs or less, according to ESPN.
When blitzed against these sets, Winston has a league-best 97.7 QBR with three touchdowns and no interceptions on 21 attempts.
Against base 3-4 sets Winston has struggled mightily. Against the Broncos on Sunday, he completed just 2-of-8 passes against their base sets and has completed a league-low 47.1 percent of his passes against them on the year.
No matter what coverage he sees, Winston has made it clear that his one goal going forward is taking care of the ball in all instances.
“I would rather take those hits and protect the football than any other thing. I just want to keep protecting the football. That’s all that’s in my mind right now. Those hits, that’s football. We do that every day.”
– Stats complied by ESPN
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