Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by’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.

Bucs QB Jameis Winston - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Getty Images

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.

via NextGen Stats

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.

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  1. I’m not a quarterbacking expert, just a fan. So given that my opinion is neither expert nor worth much, it seems to me that Winston is not hurt all that bad, and that what we see – his inconsistency – is consistent. It is who he he. He may develop into a more consistent player in the future. Tom Brady frankly wasn’t that great a thrower in his early years in the league. Neither was Aaron Rodgers. Both got a whole lot better by their mid-career years as compared to the first few years in the league.

    I am in no position to predict future performance, particularly with such an inconsistent player as Jameis Winston, and beyond that, with the inconsistency of the entire team from week to week. This is literally a team without a style, or a personality.

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  2. My opinion? Bucs fans are a little silly and over dramatic. If Jameis reminds me of anyone right now it’s Philip Rivers. He has every tool in the toolbox to be elite but he just isn’t always on. And compared to what this franchise has had in the past, we should be ecstatic about having him. Instead, folks are already jumping ship on this kid because he has rough games here and there. Let’s focus on building up the team around him. He’s not Tom Brady, expecting him to put the team on his shoulders every week regardless of what’s going on around him is unrealistic. I get it, the defense did an okay job against Carolina…where were they before that?

    This team is just not playing together right now. It’s as simple as that. It’s not fair to point the finger at Jameis when despite his inconsistency, has been as good as any other player on the team this year. Evans has had bad days…Kwon has had bay days…Grimes and Ward have had bad days…Gerald has had invisible days. Jameis is 23 freaking years old. He’ll be fine. He is fine. We shouldn’t be counting on great play from that position to win every damn week.

    My biggest concern right now is that Jameis doesn’t really look like he’s having fun. He looks like he’s trying to be Peyton Manning when we should be encouraging him to be Brett Favre, Donovan McNabb, etc. Hes not using his legs enough despite the fact that he’s been the best passer outside the pocket in the league. It’s scary because it reminds me of how Freeman stopped doing what he did best after his early success. Let Jameis Be Jameis.

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  3. I guess I am in denial. He sure didn’t look like the guy I have watched at FSU since he was a red shirt Freshman and up to the Carolina game. Oh I’m not talking about his accuracy because it’s never been close to 70%; it’s the way he was throwing which for me indicated his shoulder was bothering him or he was mentally conscious of a small issure and slightly changed the way he throws the ball. I still think there’s something with his shoulder and he thinks he can work thru it; maybe he can. If he does the same at new Orleans then I would shut him down and give him a few weeks to recover and then see what we got the last couple games of the season. Go Bucs!

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  4. So it’s not Winston’s shoulder. It’s just poor play.

    Is this QB purgatory then?

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    • Even three years in, he’s still young and is probably getting real coaching (that actually comes with struggles since it’s at the highest level) for the first time. So I wouldn’t say it’s purgatory yet. But we need to stop being surprised or make so many excuses when Winston goes hot and cold or struggles. It happens plenty. This is who he’s been his entire football career outside of one season at Florida State. He hasn’t looked worse as the pressure and play has elevated from college to the NFL, which is a good sign, but in terms of taking that next big step, he hasn’t taken it.

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      • Trevor, agree. We another year to make a decision about Jameis.

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  5. No way should we give up on Winston. That’s nuts!

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  6. He’s not ready to carry a franchise on his shoulders, pardon the pun. I’m not giving him a pass, he has his issues, still just turned 23. This fish rots from the head down. This whole team has no consistency, or grit. If anything what’s bothering Jameis is what’s bothering us, he sees a shitty team. He’s admitted he’s part of the problem. I believe he takes it personally, unlike another team leader who’s never helped take this team to another level, and has been here 8 years!

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    • He’s on a gutless football team…and doesn’t look like he’s having as much fun playing and that’s probably why. I think he needs to change his leadership style a little bit. I would come out pregame and tell every player on the team that 2-5 is a shit record and they’re all 2-5 football players. Man up and prove you aren’t a shit player.

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      • James needs to stop focusing on leadership and focus instead on improving his own play, being more consistent, being more accurate, being better at reading defenses, being better at avoiding sacks, better at not staring down his receivers, etc. etc.

        Leadership is greatly overhyped as a key attribute for a quarterback, especially the noisy kind of leadership that Jameis practices. He is not leading 18 and 19 year old kids – this is a men’s league with many players in their late 20s and 30s. Being a poor leader is a detriment. sure. But rah rah and calling out other players isn’t needed. What is needed is doing your own job well, first and foremost.

        Tim Tebow was a superlative leader, but a washout as an NFL quarterback. I don’t recall Payton Manning or Bret Favre or Tom Brady or Drew Brees or Russell Wilson – Super Bowl winners all – being big rah rah cheerleader guys, or ever being all talk but no action on the field. They performed, and they expected the players around them to perform, and if the other players didn’t perform, maybe yelled at them a time or two … and then those non-performing players got forgotten in the playcalls and targets and handoffs, and eventually cut.

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        • Brady is definitely an intense vocal leader.

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          • Brady has never been a rah-rah guy, leading rhymes, writing letters to all his teammates, all that college and high school stuff that kids get into.

            He yells, and better than that, he performs.

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  7. Winston can be a franchise QB depending on how you define it. If it means he’s our guy then sure. If it means he’s a top 10 QB then no he’s not and not likely to ever be one.

    Winston hovers around average and one of his big limitation is accuracy. There are very few examples of QB’s making dramatic improvements in that regard. His decision making is poor but that could be improved with practice over time. That could make him above average but not likely top 10.

    I’m neutral on Winston, not a believer and not a hater either. If we could replace him with a more accurate passer I would be fine with that. If we keep him and get a decent defense he’s more than adequate to lead this team. He is a disappointment as he was drafted #1 but he’s not going to get top dollar so it’s a wash if we resign him.

    As for this year I don’t think it matters what we do with him. Our probability of turning this season around is extremely low. On a more personal level I hope Winston does whats best for him, I would support any decision that he makes in that regard.

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    • Lol…you don’t think he is going to get top dollar? Don’t be surprised if he get the biggest contract in NFL history…or damn close to it. That’s the nature of the position.

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    • hnson

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    • That’s what they said about Steve Young, Doug Williams.+ Vinny T. We got !good year from Brad Johnson. All the others have been has beens or wanna bees. Do not forget Gradkowski.
      We have to give Winston more time only 23.
      Disregard my post after this PP messed up and froze with junk.

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  8. I think Jameis is a little more hurt than he’s letting on or we’re being told. If it was just the ac joint sprain he’d be fine. But, with the deltoid or rotator cuff strain he suffered in the Bills game (thanks Donovan), I can’t see how it didn’t affect his throws against the Panthers. He played well last week, but maybe the time off between games allowed some stiffness to creep into the shoulder. I’m not blaming the bad game on the shoulder. He’s had them when healthy & will have them in the future. But after watching the All-22 he looked to be adding extra just to get a ball 15 yards with velocity.

    If he can’t injure his shoulder any further by throwing then he should play. Missing game situations/reps doesn’t make sense for a young QB. But, if Dirk wants to run his vertical offense without limitations, then Jameis should sit until his shoulder has at least one injury healed.

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    • It does not appear that Jameis is having trouble flinging the ball. He threw it downfield many times the last two games, it was not that he was throwing wounded ducks. His issue as always is accuracy, particularly a tendency to over-throw his receivers, both before and after he got his throwing shoulder bruised.

      I’d say play him as long as the medicals staff clears him to play. He provides our best chance of winning, though Fitz does not represent a huge dropoff either. The reason to play Jameis is to coach him and help him get better. He needs to get better, and only gameplay and coaching and practice will make him a better passer.

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      • It’s called pushing through the pain and yes it still affects your play especially a quarterback.

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      • We agree that he should play if he’s in no danger of further injuring himself because he’s inconsistent and needs game simulations/reps to further develop.

        I don’t think the shoulder made his throws weak per se, but I do think he’s very aware of the pain & to me, it looked like he altered his throwing motion a bit on Sunday. I liken it to a golf swing. If you pick up a slight injury, you compensate for it to alleviate some discomfort on your swing. Compensate too long and your swing is toast. Same with the progress he’s made in his mechanics to this point. Just something to wonder about.

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  9. Hey Trevor, the offense clearly has multiple issues for its inconsistencies in the red zone and running the ball effectively throughout the season and I’m starting to believe its play design. Koetter prides himself on “explosive” plays and going for the home run ball quite often but when a running play is called the design of it appears very basic in its nature. Usually a power play or an ill-advised pitch to the back. And in the red zone with the plethora of talent we have on offense, why does the play calling appear to be “generic” at best? Fade jump balls to Evans in single coverage or a play action seam pass to Brate seem to be the ONLY go to plays. Where are the rub routes? The bunch concepts? Screens to the shiftier Jackson? Koetter’s play designs seem to focus on the money shots rather than creative ways to utilize all weapons in the red zone or even to incorporate run concepts such as counters, whams, or stretches. Am I over analyzing this or are you seeing similar deficiencies as well?

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    • Your guess is as good as mine. You’re not the only one who’s noticed the predictability of it all.

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  10. Can’t remember where I read it, but there was some former chargers doctor saying he though Winston appeared to be favoring a rotator cuff injury

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    • I’m no doctor. I just play one on TV.

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      • Doctor Toboggan, Mantis Toboggan!

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    • For the record, that “doctor” was David Chao, whose word is about as untrustworthy as a medical professional’s gets. He’s had multiple DUI’s, been sued for medical malpractice just over 20 times in the past 19 years (and paid out at least eight times, too), almost lost his medical license twice, wrote out prescriptions to satisfy drug addictions of friends (including Junior Seau, whose death he was decided to have played enough of a role in to have his license suspended) and coworkers, illegally wrote over 100 prescriptions for HIMSELF, and utterly disfigured a 15 year old girl who was under his care.

      The point is – I have no earthly idea why any reputable publication would use the good Dr. Chao’s analysis or word to inform its readers, but it’s pretty clear to me that his word shouldn’t be trusted, especially when it stands alone as the only voice saying something. Hell, the guy may well have been high, drunk, or smack in the middle of a surgery that ultimately crippled someone when he wrote the piece you’re referencing.

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  11. Shut him down? From a fan’s perspective, I want a healthy Winston for years to come – we aren’t winning anything this year and if we jeopardize his health by creating some lingering issue or off season surgery, that will just jeopardize next year for us too. As a fan, I say shut him down – but moreover I say put the Griffin kid in and let’s see if he’s our backup of the future. Fitz stays on the pine.

    However, from Koetter’s perspective – which will trump the fan perspective – Winston is playing as long as he can limp on to the field. Koetter is staring a pink slip in the face and his best chance of winning some games is with Winston at the helm.

    Is Winston hot and cold? Nah. We had that guy in Freeman, and Winston is no Freeman. He is young and he makes boneheaded decisions (trying to underhand the ball to RBs as he’s getting sacked; taking sacks out of field goal range; head butting defenders when he’s po’d; etc.), but he’ll learn not to make so many of those.

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    • What worries me most about Jameis long term isn’t what you refer to as his “bonehead decisions”. The much bigger issue is his inconsistent and poor throwing mechanics that regularly lead to inaccuracy, particularly on deep vertical passes.

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  12. I have said this before….Which is the offense is pretty plain. Not nearly enough players in motion. No rubs, no nothing. They line up, show the formation and go. If they want things to change, they need to not be so predictable.

    As for Winston, I get it, he had a bad game, but when you look at the numbers, he is definitely playing well. 10th in yards. 15th in TDs. I could go on. Sacks, only 11. Which puts him way down the list. Last week was a stinker, no doubt about it. But, I think a lot of people miss, that it only takes one or two plays to change the outcome of a game. What if Mike Evans makes that 3rd down catch that he drops. Or when JW scrambled and hit ME with that pass late in the 3rd that he dropped. They are driving.
    Look at how Cam picked it up after that long scramble in the 2nd Half. It only takes a cpl plays at crucial moments to spin this game.
    So while I understand the concern about JW. If you add a few new wrinkles, like hot routes on the blitzes and few changes to the same ole plays that they run every week, like put a guy in motion. They offense should be fine.

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  13. The injury he has needs a couple weeks of rest to heal,
    to keep playing hurt could turn it into a serious problem. Not sure why the Bucs medical staff do not pull plug 2-3 weeks.
    Darrel Johnson said on air during Sunday game that when he watched the Friday practice JW was putting a lot of balls on ground Darrel noticed it was not the same Jamies .

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  14. The biggest problem Jameis has right now is the same problem he’s ALWAYS had for as long as I’ve watched him play quarterback – his lower half. I genuinely just assumed that after being drafted, at some point, the team would emphasize him improving his throwing mechanics, primarily with his feet and legs. But, judging by what HAVE been Jameis’s offseason focuses in his three offseason thus far, that just isn’t the case.

    Until he is able to spend at least one entire offseason focusing primarily on improving his footwork while throwing, he will never, ever, ever consistently be the quarterback we need and want him to be….the quarterback he is absolutely capable of becoming. If Koetter and the rest of the staff haven’t made the effort to address this with him yet (and I’ve seen NO evidence that they have, whether via a media report, anything on Hard Knocks, or any knowledge of Winston’s individual workouts), then it’s a failure that rests squarely on their shoulders.

    This is basic quarterback stuff – you need to execute the actual action of throwing the ball in a particular way to ensure an accurate, consistent delivery. Jameis constantly misses deep receivers….and he constantly opens his base up far too wide rather than stepping directly into his throw. Other times, he gets in a rush to deliver the ball, and his feet aren’t set for him to step into a throw even if he wanted to, so he just uses pure arm to try to deliver it (see the crucial completion to Brate against NYG earlier, in which he was literally dragging a toe while stepping forward in the midst of throwing the ball….it worked, but that doesn’t mean it was done right or well).

    This is a very, very real problem, and it’s very serious. Bum shoulder or not, if Jameis can’t use his legs and feet more effectively as a passer, then he’ll always be less than his best… Which is a shame for a guy who’s as talented and hard working as I know he is.

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