Week 3 QB Spotlight: The Double-Edged Sword That Is Jameis Winston

2017 Week 3 NFL Rizzi Standings
September 25, 2017
The Update: Week 3
September 27, 2017

Week 3 QB Spotlight: The Double-Edged Sword That Is Jameis Winston

By David Kang:

This week, to look for a quarterback to write about, I was just thumbing through some box scores to see if anything popped to my eye. I saw Jameis’s 28/40 for 328 yards, 2 TDs, and 3 INTs looked particularly interesting because of the relative efficiency of his numbers (70% completion with 8.2 Y/A) contrasted with the 3 interceptions. I was also interested to see if there has been any significant improvement in his game from these past few years, particularly his accuracy, decision-making, and general consistency.

Looking at his game film, I would say there’s two characteristics that immediately come to mind: mental acuity and confidence.

In terms of the mental aspect of Jameis’ game, we have heard about it constantly throughout his career through high school, college, and now the NFL. He has a great understanding of defensive coverages, how to attack them, and the ability to quickly process where to go with the football. In a lot of his plays, he takes a second to confirm post-snap the coverage that he thinks the defense is in and then immediately knows where to go with the football.

Here the defense is in what appears to be Quarter-Quarter-Half, but the important aspect of this coverage is the Half portion to Jameis’ right, where he has a Smash concept. Jameis sees the depth of the safety before the snap, and when he recognizes the CB squatting at the curl flat after it, he knows that they’re playing Cover 2. Knowing this, he looks to the middle of the field to look off the corner route and hold the CB to the flat, which gives him ample space to fit in the pass.

What his mental capabilities at quarterback allow him to do is to anticipate windows to receivers. He has a great understanding of where to throw and at what exact time to throw. This lends to tighter windows against tight coverage, but Jameis has the utmost confidence in himself and his receivers and tests tight coverage much more often than the average quarterback. In these plays you can really see the surgical aspects of Jameis’s game.

Hold the safety down the middle, so he can’t make a play on the ball. Throw with great anticipation with good trajectory to get it over the 1st level LB while getting great placement to hit the WR in stride.

Look at 1st seam route to hold safety down the middle. Wait just enough until TE Cameron Brate gets behind the hook LB. Perfect timing to fit the ball through a tight window, where Brate is open for a quick second. Good placement for the TD.

Manipulate the LB for just a quick second to create a window to the dig route to Evans. If he didn’t do this, then Kendricks would’ve likely made a play on the ball. Great timing and anticipation to fit the ball to Evans in tight triple coverage. Masterful.

Here Jameis fits a perfect intermediate ball between 1st level of the LB and the safety right behind the receiver.

While the above plays are fantastic and provide a great boost to the offense, the problem with constantly attacking tight windows is that the quarterback has to be consistently perfect. If you miss a tiny bit, then there is a great chance of turning the ball over.

Jameis moves the safety to the right side of the field to make sure he has enough room to throw the seam, but he’s just half a second late to throw. If Harrison Smith had better footing on the play, it could have easily resulted in a turnover

This also could’ve been a very dangerous throw. Jameis was facing interior pressure and decided to throw the ball late to the outside, where Newman had Humphries covered, but Humphries made an outstanding play to get up and go for the ball. However, a better or more athletic corner could have easily picked this off as well.

Another aspect of Jameis’s game that really stands out is the level of trust that he has in his receivers. He’s very much aware of all the matchups he has outside with Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson, and more often than not, he is willing to let them try and make a play on the ball.

Jameis pre-snap sees single high safety with a 1 on 1 matchup of DeSean Jackson vs Trae Waynes. He audibles to a play to account for this and leaves Waynes on an island 1 on 1 versus Jackson on a deep post route. Post-snap, Jameis looks off the safety, which holds Harrison Smith in the middle enough to leave DeSean Jackson wide open behind Smith in the middle of the field. The problem is that Jameis massively underthrew him for the pick. Good mental process here but poor physical execution.

Pressure comes up the middle. Evans is checked by Rhodes and a safety. Jackson has a step on his man on a deep route but is double covered with a safety over the top. Jameis overthrows the play completely, but he still tried to heave it up for Jackson to go up and get it. With 31 seconds left in the half and a TO at their own 43, there’s still enough time left to try for a FG, and to just heave it up like this is a little bit reckless on Jameis’s part.

Cover 3 look again with Harrison Smith as the single high safety, except he’s too far on the boundary side to make a play on the field. DeSean Jackson is matched up 1 on 1 on Tramaine Brock on a deep route. When Jameis releases the football, Brock has two steps on Jackson releasing on the outside, but this just shows how much trust Jameis puts in his receivers. In this case, it finally paid off with a TD on a great play by DeSean.

Up to this point, Evans has struggled to produce all game with Rhodes covering him very well. The Vikings were in Cover 3 here again with Rhodes matched up 1 on 1 against Evans on a comeback route. Jameis puts it in a good spot and hits Evans in the hands, but Rhodes managed to knock it out at the very last second. Why am I including this rather nondescript play? Well, on the very next play:

I’m willing to bet money, knowing Jameis’s personality and leadership qualities that he told Evans that Jameis was going to throw to him the very next play for a touchdown. Otherwise, I have no viable explanation for why Jameis threw this football. It’s 2nd and 10 with 6 minutes left in the game down 17, so the game is basically out of reach, but the drive is still alive. Vikings are in lax Cover 2 with defenders dropping about 10 yards down the field to defend the 1st down marker, which leaves Humphries wide open underneath for good gain. Instead, Jameis opts to throw to Evans in basically quadruple coverage into the tightest of windows. He puts it in a decent spot, where it’s high enough for Evans but not the LB covering him underneath, but Sendejo behind him is easily able to knock the ball out from behind and turn it into an interception. Is it good to have trust in your receivers? If they are as good as Mike Evans, undoubtedly yes. However, this is an impossible level of trust to be consistently successful on offense.

It would be easy for me to say Jameis should be more careful with the football (which is very much true to a degree as evidenced in this play), but that sort of confidence bordering on recklessness is the very quality that allows him to make all those tight window throws with anticipation. Couple that with erratic accuracy here and there, which did not surface too much in this particular game, and it results in very high variance play that we get from Jameis. The highs will be high with him, but there will be many lows in between, which just makes it very difficult for him to ascend to the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL.