Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
Sikkema’s Stat(s) of the Week
So let’s cut the bull. How hurt is Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston?
Here’s the timeline of what we’ve seen and have been told.
It all started back in Week 6 when the Buccaneers traveled to Phoenix to take on the Arizona Cardinals. In the first quarter, Winston was flushed out of the pocket and taken down by Cardinals pass rusher Chandler Jones. Winston got the ball out of his hand in time, but landed hard on his throwing shoulder. Winston went on to play two more series – unsuccessful ones, points-wise – but was then replaced by Ryan Fitzpatrick midway through the second quarter due to Winston’s own decision to take himself out. Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said after the game that Winston came to him and said that he didn’t think he could get enough juice on the ball because of soreness in his shoulder after the hit and the decision was made that Fitzpatrick should take his place because of it.
During the following week, Koetter told us that Winston had an low grade AC sprain in his throwing shoulder. The team was not sure if it would keep Winston out for any games, but said that with that kind of low grade sprain, there was no way to further damage that exact injury, barring a hit like that happening again. Winston then missed the first two days of practice that week, but practiced fully Friday.
Winston was announced as the starting quarterback for the team’s Week 7 game against the Bills on that Friday and did end up starting in Buffalo. During the contest, though the team lost, Winston played very well. His coach even said that it was one of the best performances he’s seen his young quarterback play in his NFL career. Winston went 32-for-44 in that game with 384 yards, three touchdowns, one interception and a quarterback rating of 112.3.
The following week, Winston once again missed the first day of practice. We were told that they were just holding him out for rest and that they would see if he could throw the next day. The next day came to pass and Winston again did not throw. We were then told that the team was just trying to follow the same schedule that gave Winston’s shoulder rest and enabled him to play a great game like he did the week before. The media asked if Winston had suffered any set backs in the Buffalo game and was told no. Winston then practiced the Friday before the Carolina game and was expected to start once again.
However, on Friday evening on Sirius XM Radio, Koetter told Alex Marvez and Gil Brandt that Winston, “took one sack-fumble in the first half (of the Buffalo game), and he kind of re-injured it.” Koetter added Winston also has a bruised deltoid muscle in his throwing shoulder.
That was news to us Bucs beat writers.
Winston started and finished the game versus the Carolina Panthers, but it was to the tune of only three points and a poor performance by the 23-year old quarterback that resulted in a loss. Winston finished the game 21-for-38 with 210 yards, but no touchdowns and two interceptions. After the game, Winston was asked about his shoulder and if it affected him at all. He responded with, “No, it wasn’t [a factor]. I was good.”
That was good to know in terms of his health, but raised question once again on his accuracy issues. His 55 percent completion percentage and 210 passing yards were both well below his 2017 season averages. He completed a season-high 72.2 percent of his passes the previous week at Buffalo one week after suffering his injury.
So what do we make of Winston’s shoulder, and what do we make of the reports surrounding it?
Winston hasn’t missed a game in his NFL career. He didn’t miss a game in college at Florida State due to health or poor performance, either. Winston is the kind of guy who you’d have to kill to take off the field. You love that about a player. You want that kind of attitude, toughness and willingness to do whatever they can to get on the field and stay on the field. But, knowing that, how seriously can we take his and Koetter’s words when they say Winston fine? Is he really fine?
We’re left with two truths to determine. The first is the severity of Winston’s shoulder. How hurt do you believe it is? Because if you believe it’s pretty damaged, especially after taking a shot from a Bills defender at the end of the Buffalo game, and then taking another hit in the second half against Carolina, then you have some cause for some of the misses that he had this past weekend that led to the loss. It also could open the door for you to possibly want to shut him down for the season if the next few games don’t go their way or he gets tackled awkwardly again.
The last thing the Bucs need is for Winston to have to undergo shoulder surgery heading into the 2018 campaign.
But, the other side of this truth is that if Winston’s shoulder is, in fact, fine, then his performance as a quarterback was certainly not – and not for the first time this year, or even the last three years.
Let’s go to the next page to check out some of the tape from the last three weeks and see if there was a difference in how Winston was throwing the ball or making decisions pre- and post-injury.