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All Twenty-Tuesday: QB Jameis Winston

In last week’s Cover 3, we went into all the details of defensive coverages. We talked about coverage shells, when to use them and what players it takes to make each work. Aside from it being nice to know all of that information on its own, the reason I wanted to go through everything we could was to transition into this week’s film review, and that is, Jameis Winston in his pre-snap reads.

There has always been this narrative around Winston that he was a player who not only *could* make all the throws, but *wanted* to make all the throws. This led to some incredible highlight reels and big-time plays during his time at Florida State, and even into his young career as a Buccaneer. But, this is also what has been the source of much of his trouble. When you try to make every throw, some of them aren’t going to go as planned. Best case scenario can’t be the basis for most decisions.

But can one exists without the other? This has been something that even Buccaneers head coach, Dirk Koetter, has admitted as true and is also a delicate situation. You don’t want to coach the competitiveness out of Winston. There are times, especially for a team that aspires to win a championship, that a quarterback just goes for a throw in a split-second of decision-making where probability says that’s not a good idea, but the talent prevails and a spectacular play is made.

Two notable cases in point from last year were Winston’s 39-yard completion to Mike Evans against Chicago in which he dodged six would-be Bears sackers, and a desperation 42-yard touchdown heave to Adam Humphries at Dallas.

Teams need those types of plays; the Bucs need them. But, on the flip side, if you turn the football over, you won’t win many football games. Koetter knows both cases to be true.

There is great potential in Winston’s arm, and I mean that in both a positive and a negative. When Winston unleashes his arm, his weapon, the entire outcome hangs in its balance. When I think of such potential, such swinging presence, I can’t help but be reminded of a super hero many know and love.

Marvel’s God of Thunder – Thor.

When you think about Winston and Thor, they look nothing alike, minus maybe both of them being tall. Winston doesn’t have the long flowing golden hair like Thor does or the outfit or even the body type, even as a professional athlete. But, there are two things that Thor and Winston share in common that help us make sense of where Winston is in his career and where he still has yet to go. Those two things they share are a weapon (for Thor, it’s Mjolnir, his hammer, and for Winston, his throwing arm) and a mindset. Because of this, they might also share similar paths in their stories.

I’m sure most of you have seen the movie Thor (the first one, the one that matters), or read the comics, but for those who haven’t, or it’s been a long time, here’s a little synopsis. In the beginning of the story, Thor is about to be formally recognized as the crown prince of Asgard, his mystical homeland. Before Odin, his father and Asgard’s ruler, can make it official, alarms go off as someone or something is trying to steal Jotens’ power casket (a power source that can be used for evil).

Marvel's Thor

Marvel’s Thor

The danger is averted, but Thor is angry and wants to attack the people who tried to steal it. Odin forbids him. But, Thor doesn’t listen, goes to the Frost Giants’ planet, Jötunheim, with a few of his friends and begins to throw down in revenge, believing they could take on any foe, regardless of number or power. After killing what had to be hundreds of Frost Giants in three minutes, Thor and his friends are surrounded, but Odin arrives to save the day; he apologizes to the Frost King, but it’s too late. Thor’s ignorant actions have brought war upon Asgard.

So, back to Winston. As weird as it is to say, Thor’s mindset where he thought he could take on an entire nation of people with him and a few friends is pretty spot on to how Winston played football in the early parts of his career. At Florida State, Winston didn’t care about defensive players, or, at least, it didn’t seem like it. Winston’s positive mindset of, “I believe in my guys, we can beat anyone in the nation” won him all but one game with the Seminoles, but got him in trouble, at times, because he trusted things too much; he trusted them beyond the context of the situation. That led to a few bad habits and bad results.

The clip above was one example of that. Winston should have known it was zone coverage and what type of zone coverage. He should have known the linebacker was staring right at him and was moving with the eventual target. But, he didn’t. You know why? He wasn’t focused on them. To him, it didn’t matter. It should have.

Now, I don’t want to be too hard on things from Florida State, because, for one, it’s tape from over three years ago, and two, coaches don’t really teach players at the collegiate level like we think they do. They’re there to get the most talent out of these young kids to win games and win titles.

FSU’s Jimbo Fisher is one of the better ones, and I’m sure Winston was coached some to recognize defenses, but most of what you’re taught at the college level is mastering what you do on offense. Even though Winston showed at a young age he could read and write plays, in his youth, he didn’t show that as consistently on the field as some people would expect from a No. 1 overall pick (and also why he wouldn’t bother to fool them, telegraphing passes with his eyes).

The play directly above was another example. Against Quarter-Quarter-Half, which is Cover 6, Winston had a clean pocket. He saw the players disperse to their zones, but he either didn’t care or didn’t care enough to know how that would counter what his own guys were doing. In college you can kind of get away with being on the better team and just saying “us versus them and we’ll win.”

In the NFL, that doesn’t fly.

The play above is of Winston’s first career pass, and the reason I chose it as an example is to show that things don’t magically just get better when you get to the next level, or even with time. Who Winston was as a quarterback at Florida State, in his natural state, told us what he really needed to work on in his early years as a Buc, and at the rate he may be able to work on it.

In the clip above, it’s was more of the same attitude that got Winston in trouble in college. In it, he should have known it was man coverage, there was even motion before the snap that gave that away. But, regardless, he stared down his receiver and threw the ball, assuming the defensive back wasn’t going to be fast enough or that his receiver could just separate.

It failed him.

But, we all know that Winston today is not the same player he was when he made that first career pass. So, what’s different? You can’t just say, “Well, he has more experience.” Time isn’t what makes you a better player. It’s what you do with it. Naturally, Winston’s two biggest areas that needed improvement as a passer have always been: over confidence and accuracy. The first we’ll hit this week, and the next we’ll go over in-depth next week.

As we’ve already talked about, over confidence has led Winston to make some poor decision, not only in which throws he makes, but what he does before the throw, too. One of the biggest gripes with Winston is when he stares down receivers. In college, it was almost like he didn’t think it mattered. Again, it seemed like he didn’t prioritize thinking about what the defense was going to do, and instead just focused on what his guys could control on their side. In reality, he was the one who could have controlled what the defense did, too.

The first NFL play of his interception showed him staring down a receiver in year one. The second clip, the one directly above, showed improvement of him with total command of the offense and knowing where to go with the ball, but still left some to be desired in the little things.

In the touchdown play above to Cameron Brate in that Dallas game, Winston showed great command and placement of his weapon (his arm). However, the difference between a good quarterback and playoff quarterback is in the details.

Winston saw that it was man coverage. He identified the defense close to their assignments with the goal line in sight, and knew where his receiver could win. But, I would argue he could have made that score even easier. When he hiked the ball, he didn’t exactly look off that looming safety, and if the safety would have been just a little faster, that touchdown wouldn’t have happened.

What Winston really needs to work on and be more consistent with is still not staring down receivers, or, better yet, respecting the defense and what it’s capable of. This is much like what Thor had to go through when he realized his selfish actions got others in trouble. It wasn’t until he saw those consequences that he could finally be humbled and learn from them. Winston’s arm and placement have come a long way, but it’s time for his eyes to do the same.

This is what it looks like when it all comes together. And when I say, “it all” I mean when confidence exists, but there’s still respect for the defense (the perfect Winston balance). In the NFL, you have to respect defenses. For the first time in his life – mostly due to him just being better than everyone else for most of his life – I think we saw Winston truly respect defenses in 2016, and he had some great throws because of it.

In the play above, the ball was hiked to Winston, and he immediately looked to his right. His eyes stayed there for just a second, and then it was over to the left where he knew he was going to go with the ball. Because his eyes weren’t locked there at the start, as we’ve often seen from him, the safety couldn’t get a jump on the pass and was too late to help a mismatch in favor of former Bucs tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins.

Once you respect a defense, you can start manipulating it, and I think that’s where we are on the Winston timeline. With the arsenal of offensive weapons the team has surrounded him with in Year 3, look for the offense to make things even better him by putting players in motion before the snap and identifying coverages in the pre-snap read and watching Winston be more cerebral. Once he knows what he’s going to see from a defense (and what they can do from it), he can use his eyes better and try to eliminate one of his few major flaws.

Before, I believe Winston was simply identifying a defense to know what was going to happen to his main target (where he was going regardless). Now, the next step is for him to know the defense in order to better manipulate it, not just to get his main target open, but maybe even a better option – which he’s doing.

It wasn’t until Thor had his powers stripped from him and was humbled that he could achieve his true potential – getting the most out of himself and his weapon. He had to respect his enemy and what they were capable of in order to outsmart them and out-muscle them.

This is also true of Winston, who needs to cut down his interceptions – he’s thrown 33 in his first two years. If he can pare last year’s 18 picks in half, that would be a great start. PewterReport.com’s Scott Reynolds recently referenced how Year 3 is typically the year that happens for great quarterbacks.

Right now Winston is in the flirting with Natalie Portman (the actress who played Jane, Thor’s love interest) stage of the plot. I’m sure Bucs fans wish they could fast forward a bit, but the journey of a franchise quarterback takes time. How much time exactly depends on where they’ve come from.

Now you know.

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About the Author: Trevor Sikkema

Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: trevor@pewterreport.com
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Hank Scorpio
Hank Scorpio(@hank-scorpio)
4 years ago

“There was heavy debate between Winston and now Tennessee Titans quarterback, Marcus Mariota, before the 2015 NFL Draft. Would you have preferred Mariota? Did you back then? Or do you believe that, in the long run, the Buccaneers made the right choice.”

Oh man, here we go

wnb0395
wnb0395(@wnb0395)
Reply to  Hank Scorpio
4 years ago

I have to admit I was big time Mariota homer. I thought the Bucs made a huge mistake drafting Winston instead of Mariota. The last 2 seasons Winston has impressed me and continues to impress me mainly with is work ethic and his fire and passion. He truly loves this game and plays with all his heart. Only time will tell if the Bucs made the right choice but ever since we drafted him, I am a Winston fan no matter what.

Naplesfan
Naplesfan(@naplesfan)
4 years ago

Asking if one prefers one player over the other now is not a matter of who is the better NFL player today … the answer to which is it’s basically a tie. It’s more akin to asking “do you prefer zinfandel over merlot” or “do you prefer a pale ale over a stout?”. The two players are very different players and their respective teams are built around their very different skill sets. I preferred Mariota over Winston in the draft, primarily because I thought then that Winston was immature and Mariota was relatively mature, which was true in both cases,… Read more »

jshumaker
jshumaker(@jshumaker)
Reply to  Naplesfan
4 years ago

With the additions of D Jackson, OJ Howard and C Godwin I do see the light coming on for Jameis and the entire offense. If Evans was able to put up the numbers he did last year with non-stop double teams I find it very hard to believe defenses are going to be able to cover everybody. Which should end up with Jameis being able to put up very impressive numbers

sunshineben
sunshineben(@sunshineben)
4 years ago

Most all of nfl people rate M.M. higher then Winston in the past years . The bucs head coach now also wanted M.M. before his boss (Lovie ) changed his mind. M.M. was ahead of Winston on EVERY measure in the nfl draft so i think the bucs picked the guy to help fill the stands. Now Winston has so many good players around him it his his turn to end the debate or the bucs picked the wrong qb.

e
e(@e)
Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

Yeah… That whole leadership thing included in your measurements as well.

jshumaker
jshumaker(@jshumaker)
Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

Once MM broke his leg that about ended the discussion for me. Jameis is built like a tank. If you are a Titans fan you have to tense up every time he gets hit. Even DTs bounce off of Jameis like he is swatting away a pesky fly

cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

And once again you fail to mention durability. MM hasn’t played a full season of football in 4 years. And there was plenty of draft-niks that ahead Jameis ahead of Marcus pre-draft. And how many championships did MM win? I must’ve missed that on as well in your stats. Both guys went to the Exact teams that needed them.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

Need to insert Mariota’s fumbles into the equation. For some reason those are never considered.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
Reply to  sunshineben
4 years ago

This is just pure revisionist history. Jameis was far superior as a prospect to Mariota in plenty of important traits – the ability to throw with anticipation, arm strength, mental grasp of the game, and pocket presence, just to name a few. He also demonstrated much more natural leadership ability than Mariota ever did. That’s not to say that Marcus isn’t a leader, but he’s just not on the same level a guy like Jameis is. Mariota was an excellent prospect, and so far, it looks like he’s going to be a great NFL quarterback. I said at the time… Read more »

Iowabucfan
Iowabucfan(@iabucfan)
4 years ago

I believe there is no debate now regarding Jameis and Marcus. As Naplesfan mentioned above, Each franchise got the right guy.
I do believe Jameis will be even better. First, because he wants to and is putting the work in. Second, because he has more weapons around him. I believe he realizes he doesn’t have to force the ball now that he has more options. I do believe the interceptions will be down because of that.
Go Bucs! 3 weeks from TC!

Horse
Horse(@horse)
4 years ago

Well I was back and forth and finally decided I’ll take potential over safe. I have seen Winston improve from year one to year two; Mariota hasn’t. I see Winston improving again this year, the next, and a few more. If our Defense gets a little better too then I see us in the Playoffs this year. Luck and injuries also play into this too. i am totally against Hard Knocks because it’s a distraction and we don’t need that crap right now. We’ve turned the corner; now I’d like to see us actually complete the turn and power on.… Read more »

nitey
nitey(@nitey)
4 years ago

I agree with Horse, excellent article (again!) Trev. I also originally wanted MM over Winston, mostly because of the maturity factor, but like Naplesfan states, both teams got the right guy for what they are attempting to do. However, optimist that I am, I DO see Winston making a big improvement this year. I really do think he plays better quarterback and reduces his interceptions, but I also think he’ll be inconsistent with it. He’s still a competitor and I expect that he’ll still throw a few picks that we will all end up shaking our head at. But, I… Read more »

martinii
martinii(@martinii)
4 years ago

The question in my opinion is a no-brainer, Brad Johnson an at best average QB lead the Buc’s to a Super Bowl. Keyshawn, a few good receivers, and a great defense did the heavy lifting. Football requires a modest level of consistency and it really helps to have a QB who at this point in his career has been a good maturing player. Mariota has had some injuries but as far as who is the best, the jury is still out. Bottom line you need 53 good players, a limited number of injuries, good coaching, and a little luck. Jameis… Read more »

e
e(@e)
4 years ago

How about “Sikk Stat of the Week”?

Buc-in-Philly Fan
Buc-in-Philly Fan(@tazliver)
4 years ago

Very nice job Trevor. I like the parallel with Thor. I don’t think I would have naturally come up with that myself. I wanted Jameis over Mariota but I was honestly nervous of the perceived “baggage” that could have come from that pick. In hind sight it was the right move as I think the upside is much higher with Jameis. I also do not want his mentality of taking shots to be slowed. The picks are an issue but the courage to make throws is what separates the good from the great. No matter what the opinions are I… Read more »

macabee
macabee(@macabee)
4 years ago

McCoy vs Suh, Evans vs Beckham, Jr., Winston vs Mariota – all debate fodder for some but not for me. We’ve made our choice and I never look back. For me it’s ride or die! I like our choices and wouldn’t trade them for any player of the same position today. It’s called dancing with the one that brung ya! What really burns my a$$ other than a small brush fire about yea high is waiting to see some real football. I can’t remember a time when I was more anxious to see what we got. My anticipation makes this… Read more »

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
Reply to  macabee
4 years ago

As always macabee brings logic to the forum. There is little reason to continue debating the virtues of Mariota vs Winston any more than when one returns to his 50th class reunion to check out how his ex girlfriend has aged or how much weight she gained as compared to his wife. Thank goodness Scubog made the right Draft pick those many seasons ago.

Destino102
Destino102(@destino102)
4 years ago

This Cover 3 is brought to you by Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. The favorite baking soda of Jameis Winston and Thor Odinson.

Horse
Horse(@horse)
4 years ago

Trevor, can you answer this question.
Why would the Bucs want to display Winston at this point in time especially since he is starting his 3rd season; I guess it’s all about the money?

Horse
Horse(@horse)
Reply to  Horse
4 years ago

This is in reference to Hard Knocks

JayBuc52
JayBuc52(@jaybuc52)
4 years ago

A couple of other elements that I have noticed from watching him are, one, he still throws off his back foot and the ball sails on him, and two, he doesn’t put enough air under his deep throws. On the former, if he manages to get his feet right before throwing, he wins the Rams game. He had several open receivers late that he missed because of bad footwork. Those should have been easy throws. The latter is that he is a bit enamored with his arm and throws a line drive on his deep throws. When you do that… Read more »

seat26
seat26(@seat26)
4 years ago

I like our chances this year. Bucs have done an excellent job on the Offensive side of the ball. We are solid at all the skill positions. If we can have the same success on Defense as we were starting to have at the end of last year, We are going to compete for the Division title.

Rut
Rut(@vjax83)
4 years ago

Good article Trevor. I’m one of the ones that wanted Mariota before the draft. I get that Jameis was a winner in college, and he was basically Captain Comeback, but there was a reason he had all those comeback wins. Mainly, slow starts. Something we’ve seen him not really be able to shake in the NFL either. So as a lifelong Bucs fan, I wasn’t too thrilled about drafting a QB that would need to come back all the time to win games. I also wasn’t sure about his character. I lived in NY when the rape stuff was coming… Read more »

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
Reply to  Rut
4 years ago

Serious question – at the peak of the Winston legal stuff, did it ever occur to you to just review all of the available facts of the case, all of the evidence, and form your own conclusion? Are you really THAT reliant on things like a flawed legal system, or what the general public clamors on about, to form an individual opinion of a man’s guilt or innocence regarding an extremely serious crime/accusation?

Rut
Rut(@vjax83)
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 years ago

I’m not a lawyer. I didn’t have access to all the evidence of the case, nor did anyone else outside of the people working on it, and the judge presiding over it. All I had was the limited information that news outlets are given. I also have zero legal training. So no, I’m not arrogant enough to believe that just because I “googled” some available, but incomplete, information about the case that I was at all qualified to make an accurate judgement about whether or not he was truly guilty of anything. Sure, I had my individual opinion that his… Read more »

drdneast
drdneast(@drdneast)
4 years ago

Mariota profited in a huge way last year by having two really good RB’s and an improved offensive line while the Bucs took a step back with the loss of Logan Mankins and the troubles of Doug Martin. Winston was also suffering from having a lack of good receiver depth although Brate and Humphries both stepped up to fill in the void. Winston gets knocked a lot for his INT’s but as I have mentioned out her before, I can count 4 that clanged off the receivers hands or were due to poor or wrong route running. Add in the… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
Reply to  drdneast
4 years ago

Well said DRD, and I believe it was Rashard Green that Jameis was always forcing those balls to. He does favor his main targets and it has gotten him in trouble in the past. I hope our O-line is improved with the Marpet move. That alone is big as pressure up the middle on a QB is the worst kind.

cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
4 years ago

Great article Trevor. When it comes to Jameis, he did have a habit of staring down his main read. But it was spurratick. IN the game against Oregon, which they lost, outside of his pick, which bounced off of his receivers hands, he was toying with Oregon’s secondary all day. Looking lefty and coming back right etc. I think both Jameis and Marcus went to the perfect teams. Jameis’ leadership and energy was needed for this team. MM would not have been as successful on this team as jameis. We needed a culture change and Jameis was just that. I’m… Read more »

cgmaster27
cgmaster27(@cgmaster27)
Reply to  cgmaster27
4 years ago

ON a side note , even I will admit, MM has been much better as a pro than I thought coming from the spread. Durability was always my concern though and he’s never alleviated that since coming to the pros.

toofamiliar17
toofamiliar17(@toofamiliar17)
4 years ago

Coming down here before I even read the 2nd page to say that I really love that Schofield piece. Great concept, and I love the style in which it was written to go with it. Thanks for sharing.

scubog
scubog(@scubog)
4 years ago

After three years of waiting, I’m most anxious to hear my friend Pinkstob’s position on Jameis Winston.

My superhero comparison for Winston, and really any other QB hopeful drafted by a downtrodden team, is Mighty Mouse and his warning, “Here I come to save the day!” Isn’t that what is expected?

Buc 1976
Buc 1976(@robmckenz17gmail-com)
4 years ago

MM would have been injured behind our O-Line and IMO never recovered from it mentally. Bucs got the the right QB.

David DeLeon
David DeLeon(@swflgipsybucsfan)
4 years ago

I’m a big FSU fan so I was biased for Winston but I think he had started off a little better as well, best ability is availability. I think Mariota had been hurt both seasons. I think Winston has started great and still has areas to grow in, and that’s a great thing, his ceiling is still high. If his passes didn’t float just that much most of the interceptions would be gone. I love all the weapons he has now. I think he’ll be close to 5000 yards with about 10 int’s and 30 TD’s this year. I’m glad… Read more »

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