Jameis Winston flashed many of the traits that led the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to select him with the first overall pick in a victory over the New Orleans Saints. Mark Schofield breaks down the Week 2 film on Jameis Winston’s big day.
Anticipation and Ball Placement
On this first play, Tampa Bay faces a 3rd and 5 deep in their own territory early in the first quarter. Backed up and on the road, this is a big situation for the rookie quarterback. Winston is under center with 21 offensive personnel on the field in an offset i-formation and pro alignment on the left. The Saints have a 3-2-6 sub package on the field and show Cover 3 in the secondary with both linebackers and a safety showing blitz pre-snap:
The defense rolls this to Cover 2 Man Under at the snap, with safety Kenny Vaccaro (#32) dropping off the line of scrimmage to cover tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (#87), who runs a crossing route:
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Winston does a number of positive things on this play. First, he handles the pocket well. There is a bit of pressure in his face when the defensive end cuts inside, so the rookie is forced to glide a bit from his spot prior to releasing the throw. After he climbs the pocket, he releases this pass just as the TE makes his break ‒ a nice anticipation throw. Finally, the throw is high (perhaps due to the pressure at his feet, preventing him from stepping into the throw) but placed well, where only his big target can go up and make a play without Vaccaro or the safety breaking up the throw:
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Seferian-Jenkins hauls in the pass and Tampa Bay moves out of the shadows of their own goalposts.
Arm Talent, Anticipation and Throwing a Receiver Open
In the build-up to the 2015 Draft, one of the biggest positives about Winston was his arm strength. According to Daniel Jeremiah, Winston’s arm was on par with Aaron Rodgers when he was eligible for the draft. However, pure arm strength is just one factor when you consider the ability of a quarterback as a thrower. Anticipation, ball placement and ‒ on this play ‒ throwing arc are important factors as well.
Trailing by four late in the first half, the Buccaneers face 1st and 10 at the New Orleans 15-yard line. Winston is in the shotgun with 11 offensive personnel on the field, in trips formation to the left. The Saints have their 4-2-5 nickel package in the game, and pre-snap they show Tampa 2/Red 2 coverage with linebacker Stephone Anthony (#50) well behind the line, almost in a safety’s alignment:
Vincent Jackson is the inside trips receiver and he runs a simple seam route against this coverage:
With the trips formation to his side of the field, safety Kenny Phillips (#38) has to widen to respect the outside two receivers. This requires Anthony to open his hips towards the trips and run with the seam route. Phillips reads the outside two receivers and rotates to help on the seam if the other two WRs run shorter routes. But at the start, Anthony is responsible for Jackson.
Anthony looks to have this play covered: the safety has turned his hips towards Jackson and is in position to break on the throw, so Winston needs to place this ball perfectly:
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He does. The rookie looks like a veteran on this pass, dropping it over both Anthony and Phillips at the back line of the end zone, where only Jackson can make a play on the football. Here is one more angle:
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The anticipation and ball placement are flawless here, but so is the throwing arc. Because of the positioning of Anthony and Phillips, Winston needs to get enough air on the football to get the pass over the defenders, yet keep the football in bounds so his receiver can make a play. Which he does to perfection.
Vision and Athletic Ability
While not an elite athlete, Winston displayed in his college career an ability to handle pressure in the pocket, move and extend plays with his feet, and find receivers down the field on the scramble drill. These traits were on full display on this next play. Late in the third quarter the Bucs face 1st and 10 on their own 40-yard line. They put Winston under center with 12 offensive personnel on the field. The Saints have their 4-3 defense in the game and show Cover 3 in the secondary:
After the snap, the quarterback fakes an off-tackle run to the left before setting up in the pocket. This play is designed to flow to the left of the offense, with a three-level route on the outside and receiver Louis Murphy (#18) running the deep cross from right to left:
Even though the Saints drop eight into coverage and only send three pass rushers after the quarterback, the combination of good coverage downfield and late pressure in the interior forces Winston to slide to his right ‒ away from the structure of the play. But he is able to keep his eyes downfield and find Murphy breaking back in synch with his QB:
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Winston unleashes a great throw while on the move, Murphy snares the pass and rumbles down inside the New Orleans 10-yard line. From the end zone camera you can see how Winston slides and extends this play with his feet, then delivers a great throw on the move:
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And yes, at the end of this clip you can see cornerback Delvin Breaux (#40) ‒ who completely lost track of the football. But even had Breaux been in position, it is unlikely he would have prevented this long completion, as Murphy had more than a step on the CB..
Winston finished the day completing 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards and one touchdown, with no interceptions. While the week-to-week improvement in the numbers is important, it is more important for this growth as a QB that he continue to display these essential traits as a passer. Arm talent, anticipation, ball placement and pocket presence are all core elements for a QB in the NFL, and Winston had them on full display this past Sunday.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MarkSchofield.
Mark Schofield has always loved football. He breaks down film, scouts prospects, and explains the passing game for Inside the Pylon.
All video and images courtesy NFL Game Pass.