Buccaneers: Just how aggressive is Jameis Winston?

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 11: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passes while under pressure against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 11: Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers passes while under pressure against the New Orleans Saints in the second quarter of the game at Raymond James Stadium on December 11, 2016 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /

It’s been said if the Buccaneers have truly found their franchise quarterback in Jameis Winston, then we all need to be prepared to have some extreme highs and very depressing lows.

We’ve witnessed this already in games when the Buccaneers gunslinger threw a game winning touchdown pass and subsequent two-point conversion to receivers Chris Godwin and Mike Evans in Week 17 against the New Orleans Saints.

Of course, we’ve also felt the gut wrenching agony of three lost fumbles just one-week prior tainting an otherwise masterful performance against the Carolina Panthers.

These are both caused by the same characteristic in Winston. His aggressiveness.

He has a powerful self-confidence and trust in his teammates which make him believe no play is ever dead and no throw isn’t completable.

It’s brilliant. And ugly. All at the same time.

But, how does his measure up to others in the NFL?

NFL.com has put together a great team of statisticians and guys who just know how to look at the game from newer and ever developing angles.

On their website, they call these Next-Gen Stats. Perhaps they’re next generation because we don’t use a lot of these to measure today’s players in the conventional ways, but they’re very relevant to today’s game.

Just look at where Winston stacks up among the league’s most aggressive passers.

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For 2017, 20.4% of his passes were considered aggressive. This means, throws where at least one defender was within a single yard or less from the intended target at the time of the catch or incompletion.

His percentage of these throws seems high on the surface, and ranks fourth highest among starters at his position.

Ahead of him on this list are Carson Wentz, Carson Palmer and DeShone Kizer. Blaine Gabbert and Brock Osweiler are also ahead of Winston on the list, however, I don’t view them as starters in the traditional sense despite the fact they started some games in 2017. Moving on.

Of the four, only Wentz and Winston were able to play with this aggressive style and find statistical success. They both threw for over 3,000-yards and each had double-digit touchdowns, although Wentz had significantly more with 33.

Winston and Kizer are the only two with double-digit interceptions thrown in this grouping with the Bucs quarterback having eleven on the year. The Browns rookie had 22. Yikes.

What does it mean? Well, it means we’re right in that Winston is one of the most aggressive passers in the NFL. I’ve had conversations with fans of the team about whether or not he’s learning from some of these mistakes, and I contend he has.

Well, this stat helps prove it. See, in 2016, the then second-year quarterback threw aggressively according to this measure 22% of the time. A full percent and a half higher. Big difference, right?

Actually, yes. This percentage in 2016 equals to 124 of his passes qualifying as aggressive. An average of nearly eight per game.

In 2017 though, his percentage equals out to 90 passes, or nearly seven. This is only one pass per game difference though, right?

This season, the average NFL team scored 22 points per game. In 2016, the average was 23.

Tampa surrendered above the league average in 85% of Winston’s starts this season. In 2016, his team gave up more than the league average just 56% of the time.

So, despite the fact Winston’s offense was forced to score above league average in 85% of his games this year, he still threw the ball “aggressively” one fewer time per game than last year.

This looks to me like a quarterback who’s learning how to make smarter throws, albeit a little slower than maybe some would like.

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For arguments sake, let’s expand the math. Now, this is theoretical stat projecting, so take it with a giant grain of salt.

If we reduce the percentage of games where Winston was forced to score above league average to the percentage of last year, then we can presumably reduce his forced passes by the same rate.

This would then lower his forced passes to an average of 29%, or two full passes. So now, Winston is throwing aggressive passes three times less per game than he did one season ago. Of course, if his team isn’t forced to score higher then he’s not throwing as much, so again this is theoretical.

No matter, this points to a young player who is gradually learning how to become a more efficient quarterback for his team.

If he continues his improvement of 1.5%, then we should see him throw aggressive passes 19% of the time in 2018.

Passers in this range for 2017 were players like Ben Roethlisberger, Dak Prescott, Eli Manning and Matthew Stafford.

Two of those guys threw for over 4,000 yards this season. Of course, all of them threw double digit interceptions as well.

So, this statistic is not a definite predictor of success or failure. However, it’s fairly safe to say the more you throw into tight coverage, the more interceptions you’re risking.

For what it’s worth, his interceptions to aggressive throws ratio of 1:8 is 14th in the NFL among starting quarterbacks. Not terrible.

This was a lot of math folks. But if you can follow it, it tells you the Buccaneers’ franchise quarterback got smarter this year, and a little less risky.

Even if it didn’t always feel like it.

Let me know what your thoughts on this and anything Buccaneers related are in the comments, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

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