Jason La Canfora pointed to him as the main reason the Bucs are a playoff contender, noting that over the past six games, he's completed "110 of 181 passes (61 percent) for 1,440 yards (8 yards per attempt) with nine touchdowns and just two interceptions, for a rating of 97.8." Adam Kilgore at the Washington Post notes that he's on pace to have one of the best seasons for a rookie, ever, as one of the youngest NFL quarterbacks ever. And Pro Football Focus praised his game even in the face of inconsistent pass protection.
Jameis Winston (+5.2) is the real deal. What a performance from the rookie. What I came away most impressed with was Winston's innate sense of pressure. There were many times in this one where a Bucs' linemen would lose control of his block and Winston would immediately get the ball out of his hands to a check down or underneath route. That ability made the struggling pass protection look competent Sunday. And then Winston was his usual brilliant self when pushing the ball down the field. On throws 10+ yards he was 13 of 17 for 205 yards and five touchdowns.
The pass protection problems were actually fairly obvious on re-watching the game. Donovan Smith got beat especially frequently, but Winston generally got the ball just a few beats before a defensive end would be able to get to him. That's outstanding pocket poise, and it continues the inconsistent trend we've seen out of Smith this year, where he'll look like a brick wall on some plays and remains competitive, but then poor technique gets him beat just a tad too often. That was a factor in college, too, and despite the coaches' praise, it remains to be seen whether he can get that fixed and turn into a positive for the Bucs.
But Smith may not have to, if Winston continues to play the way he has. A quarterback with a good feel for pressure, pocket movement and the timing of the offense can compensate for poor offensive tackle play -- Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning are poster boys for that quality -- and it looks like Winston is exactly that kind of quarterback as well.