Jameis Winston looked very impressive against the Philadelphia Eagles. Not just statistically, though the fact that 16 of his 19 completions went for first downs is pretty mind-boggling, but on film, too. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback made big throw after big throw -- the kinds of throws that veteran quarterbacks struggle to make consistently -- and he did so throughout the game.
This basically summed up his performance:
Jameis Winston made some ridiculous throws vs PHI. Young QBs shouldn't be able to throw guys open the way he did. He trusts his eyes & arm
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) November 23, 2015
Winston isn't just making difficult throws, he's throwing before people are coming out of their breaks, and he's leading them to open spots in the defense, whether it's zone or man coverage.That started from the beginning of the game, with this ridiculous throw into tight zone coverage in between four defenders. The defense plays this near-perfectly, and Winston needed to deliver this ball on-time, accurately and with velocity to beat it -- and that's what he did.
That throw wasn't unique on Sunday by any means. It was just the start of more. Like this terrific throw on first down at the end of the first quarter. The Bucs are keeping in seven blockers and have Doug Martin leak out late, making this effectively a two-man route. That means Winston is going to have to make a tough downfield throw to get something positive out of this play. And the Bucs have consistently trusted him to do just that.
Winston finds Mike Evans on the crosser and makes a great throw that keeps him away from the defender behind him, although just a tad further may have been even better. Notice the three defensive linemen closing on Winston right before he unleashes the throw, too. He's not phased one bit. The throw's even more impressive on All-22.
Those throws have become a staple for Winston, and they're where he's at his best. Finding receivers in the 10-25-yard range, behind the cornerbacks and in front of the safeties. He's very good at pushing the ball down the field aggressively with those throws, better than he is at the deep ball behind the safeties, where he tends to underthrow Mike Evans.
And he's not just doing that on play-action passes where he gets some benefit out of a defense preparing for the run -- even on third-and-16 on must-have plays, he can consistently find Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans down the field. This is also where you see that despite Jackson's limited production this year, his presence on the field is crucial to give Winston more than one realistic option on these downfield throws.
Notice the pass protection, and the two chip blocks by the running backs helping out. Gotta love Charles Sims blasting Vinny Curry, and Donovan Smith just lying on him afterwards. That gives Winston the time he needs to find Jackson, and the throw down the field is perfect: in-stride, behind the cornerback, in front of the safeties. When your quarterback can convert third-and-16 with some frequency, you know they're doing something right.
That's not to say Winston was perfect -- he had at least three throws that could have been picked off, including a dropped interception on a screen pass -- but this was a very good game from the rookie quarterback. It was the kind of game you'd expect to see about a high-level, veteran NFL quarterback. But the Bucs are getting it from a first-year player. That bodes very well for his future.