The Buccaneers Offense turned in an ugly performance against the Panthers on Sunday, led by Jameis Winston’s 6 turnovers. Winston had been having somewhat of a bounce-back season prior to Week 6. Now, his 10 interceptions rank as 2nd most in the NFL behind Baker Mayfield. More troubling for Tampa is that the same issues Winston has struggled with throughout his career have not really gone away.
Winston has always struggled to protect the football. He can be too trusting of his physical skills at times, and this leads to some terrible decision-making. More so, he hasn’t significantly improved in speeding up the way he plays the quarterback position. His release is too slow. He stays on his receivers too long. He often doesn’t read and react quickly enough to what the defense is doing. He holds the ball too long. The result of this is that the Buccaneers have a tough time gaining any consistency as an offense.
Winston’s troubles were on full display in London. He threw an interception on the first play of the game. Why? Because it took him too long to get the ball out of his hands.
You can see on the illustration below that wide receiver Mike Evans had already turned around and was looking at Winston, waiting, but the ball had still not been released. Cornerback James Bradberry was able to see Evans waiting and Winston starting his throwing motion as well. He was able to break on the ball for the interception as a result.
Later in the first half, Winston committed another turnover after refusing to give up on a play.
This is a perfect example of something that continues to plague Winston. He “has a habit of trying to be Superman,” as head coach Bruce Arians said after the game. This was 2nd-and-19, and the Buccaneers were in field-goal range. Just throw the ball away and live to play another down.
Winston’s 3rd interception came in the 3rd quarter. On this play, the Panthers were bringing 5 pass rushers with 3 linebackers dropping, as illustrated below. Also note the yellow line. That represents Mike Evans’ Dig route coming from off screen.
Off of the play-fake, Winston stared down Evans. Linebacker Luke Kuechly followed his eyes to the throw and Winston hit him in stride for the easy interception.
To be fair, it looked like Winston was hit right as he released the ball, which certainly impacted the throw some. Still, Kuechly looked to be in the passing window anyway, and Evans was not particularly open on the play. It’s hard to understand why that ball was thrown. This was not a particularly intricate blitz disguise. In fact, it was a pretty straight forward concept. Kuechly was not baiting Winston or breaking off of a predictable movement path. Maybe you could say that Kuechly’s initial reaction to the play-action brought him out of Winston’s line of sight. Either way, there was ample time for Winston to spot Kuechly if he was seeing the entire field. Instead, he locked onto his receiver and his tunnel vision resulted in another bad interception. One play later, the Panthers led 27-7.
Winston’s 4th interception came in a desperate situation – down 11 on a 4th-and-10 with 2 and a half minutes remaining. A little latitude can be given for attempting a riskier throw in this situation. Still, it was Winston staring down his receiver that led to the pick.
First, look at the route combination. A post with a deep-out route underneath it.
This was a route concept the Buccaneers ran a couple of times on the day. Cornerback Ross Cockrell was ready for it. Despite being in 1-on-1 coverage vs. the outside receiver, Cockrell was still reading his receiver through to the quarterback. He saw Winston stare, plant and throw. Given that this was a route combo he had already seen, that it was 4th-and-10 with the deep out breaking right at the sticks, and that Winston was telegraphing the throw, Cockrell was able to jump the route for the interception.
5 interceptions and 6 turnovers simply can’t happen. There are quarterbacks in the NFL who won’t throw 5 interceptions all season. Winston’s performance torpedoed any chances the Buccaneers had of winning on Sunday.
Jameis Winston has had the same problems hold back his play for 5 seasons, with only marginal improvement to date. It is becoming increasingly doubtful that these flaws are correctable. They are just who he is as a quarterback.
With that being said, Winston is set to become a free agent next season. Take a look around the league and you’ll see that there really isn’t a great fit for him as a starting quarterback anywhere in 2020. Who is going to spend money on a quarterback without a high enough upside to justify his propensity for consistently turning the ball over?
It seems the best path for Winston to remain a starter in the NFL is with the Buccaneers. Tampa could look around this offseason and find that they don’t have many options in the near term that would be better than Winston. However, re-signing him for big money seems doubtful unless he shows dramatic improvement over his next 10 games.
Whether he knows it or not, Winston is playing for his QB1 career in the NFL beyond 2019.
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