Through the first four weeks of the season, Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston threw eight interceptions, second-most in the league at that point behind Jets’ Ryan Fitzpatrick, who had 10.
After throwing two early, critical picks against the Broncos in a 27-7 loss, Winston made a conscience effort to protect the football and he’s done just that. Over the last four games, the second-year quarterback has thrown just one interception to nine touchdown passes.
Head coach Dirk Koetter credited Winston’s improvement to patience and seeing the field better, leading to wiser decisions.
“He’s going through his progressions,” Koetter said after practice Monday. “He’s seeing the defense, going through his progressions better and taking what the defense gives him. He’s doing a good job of that.”
Bucs QB Jameis Winston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
While Tampa Bay lost decidedly to the Falcons last Thursday, the Bucs offense got off to a fast start thanks to the Winston and Mike Evans show. The latter’s 11-catch, 150-yard day has been well-documented, but save for two fumbles and Winston had a fine night, too.
Completing 23 of 37 passes for 261 yards and three scores, Winston delivered from the pocket and moved around and outside when he needed to. But that was nothing new.
Koetter’s been impressed with his mobility and knack for keeping plays alive all season.
“He’s done a really good job outside the pocket. His confidence is in that he’s seeing the field,” Koetter said. “He’s keeping his eyes downfield, he’s making good decisions on when to throw and when to run, and, for the most part, when he does run he’s making good decisions on when to get down.”
That last part about “when to get down” hasn’t always been the case, Koetter admitted. In fact, the head coach said the biggest issue with Winston moving outside the pocket has been the amount of hits he’s taken. In that category, he trails only Colts’ Andrew Luck with 66.
Winston’s night was finished Thursday after taking a shot to the back late in the fourth quarter, but benching him was more precautionary than anything. Winston quickly shook off any minor tweak. The effort, on a two-point conversion attempt that would’ve made it a 40-22 game with under four minutes, was just another example of how the young gunslinger refuses to give up on plays, no matter the score or down-and-distance.
“We want him to take less hits,” Koetter said. “That’s a work in progress.”
At the end of the day, Winston’s ability outside the pocket has been a pleasant surprise for Koetter. The first-year head coach admitted that he didn’t quite realize Winston’s mobility out of college, but by proving his athleticism at the next level, the Bucs have been able to open the playbook a little more and incorporate it into their game plan.
“I think pretty much everybody thought in college that he was primarily a pocket passer,” Koetter said. “And we still have work to do in that area. But our ‘bootleg game,’ for lack of a better term – the stuff where we do get him on the perimeter – those plays have been efficient. As an offensive coach, you’re going to continue to run plays that are efficient for you.”