For the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the off-season has arrived and with it comes both vacation and time to work on flaws in their game. Throughout the dull months between this season and next, I’ll be assigning homework to Buccaneers players detailing some key things to work on. Who better to start with than quarterback Jameis Winston?
Most players would be bummed out to hear that they’re being given homework, but something tells me that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston would smile and ask for more. That’s the type of dedication and passion for football that Winston has and it’s the primary reason he’s one of the best young talents in the entire league.
In just his second season Winston set the the single season Buccaneer record for touchdowns with 28, and he’s the only player to ever throw for 4000 yards in each of his first two seasons. With that said, the soon-to-be 23 year old is far from perfect.
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For Winston, three is the magic number. Heading into season number three, quarterback number three is plagued by three key issues. These are dents in the armor that have been there since Winston’s days at Florida State, dents that will probably exist to some degree until the day he retires. Even still, my math teacher didn’t stop giving me math homework just because I was better at English and couldn’t figure out addition problems without using my fingers. Winston might never be perfect in these areas, but he must work on them all the same.
Assignment number one for the Bucs quarterback is a ten thousand word essay titled “Turnovers And Why They’re Terrible”. I expect this paper to explain in thorough detail the many ways in which turnovers can doom a team, including putting the defense in a tough spot, and swinging momentum suddenly in favor of the opponent.
Winston’s weakness has long been in his propensity for interceptions. He threw 18 picks in his last season at FSU, 15 picks in his rookie season with the Bucs, and 18 picks this season. Much like Eli Manning, Brett Favre, Joe Flacco and several other well-known gun slingers Winston off sets a lot of frustrations with interceptions by making spectacular plays otherwise. Still, he must make strides towards limiting these plays and keeping his interception count closer to 10 than 20.
Aside from his natural desire to push the ball into tight windows, Winston also falls victim to a bit of hero ball syndrome. Perhaps feeling outmatched and trying to ompensate for struggling teammates, Winston will press and try to create plays that aren’t there. This has proven especially true when the running game and Mike Evans are taken away. The addition of more play-makers on offense should help get rid of this issue and cut down on some of Winston’s mistake throws.
Bad habits mechanically can also lead to some of these turnovers, which leads us to assignment number two.
One of Winston’s primary goals this off-season should be continuing to clean up both his upper and lower body mechanics as a passer. Too often his footwork gets out of whack and we see a pass transform before our eyes into a duck that flies out of bounds. Much was made of Winston’s elongated throwing motion when he was a college prospect and while he’s tightened it up a bit over the last two years he still has to continue tinkering with it this off-season.
Assignment number three for Winston is the type that everybody likes: a group project! I’m assigning Winston and a teammate or teammates of his choice to spend part of the off-season sharpening their chemistry on deep passes.
Winston struggled mightily in this regard as a rookie and just couldn’t seem to figure out a way to consistently hit Mike Evans when he was open down field. Those two obviously made tremendous ground on that problem between this season and last, but as an offense they had two less explosive plays this season, from 9 down to 7 according to Dirk Koetter.
Finding some down-field chemistry and repertoire with receivers other than just Mike Evans will be crucial if Winston and the offense want to take the next step.
Year three typically seems to be the breakout season for star players, and Jameis Winston is in great position to maintain that trend. If he builds on what he’s already great at and gets passing grades on his homework assignments there’s little reason to believe Winston can’t become one of the best quarterbacks in football next season.