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Sack numbers tell a different story for Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota

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Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Peter King managed to drag an interesting note out of Pro Football Focus in today's Monday Morning Quarterback: Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston were very different in terms of sacks and pressures.

Mariota was sacked 23 percent of the time he was pressured, the sixth-highest rate among quarterbacks in the draft class. Florida State's Jameis Winston was sacked only 11.5 percent of his pressured dropbacks, second-best in the class.

I really like sacks as a statistical measurement of a player's quality and playing style. It's not ideal, of course, but it says a lot more than people think. For one, sacks aren't all that dependent on the offensive line. There's some influence there, of course, but a lot of that manifests itself in terms of pressure, not sacks. How quarterbacks handle pressure determines whether they get sacked: do they throw the ball away, make risky throws, or hold on to the ball to eat sacks? Do they move up inside the pocket to help their blockers, or do they tend to bail out to look for extra room? Those differences are why Aaron Rodgers takes a lot of sacks, while Peyton Manning takes very few, regardless of the quality of their offensive lines.

So what does this statistic say about both Winston and Mariota? To me, it confirms something we've seen on tape pretty consistently: Winston is riskier with his throws, more willing to take chances while under pressure. Mariota, meanwhile, is more likely to eat the sack. In addition, Winston tends to stay within the pocket more than Mariota -- while it seems counter-intuitive, leaving the pocket actually leads to more sacks than working with your blockers.

Those are both stylistic issues. In general, I tend to prefer a quarterback that takes more risks: it's easier to teach him prudence than it is to teach an overly careful quarterback to be more aggressive. Alex Smith still refuses to throw into tight windows, while players like Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning have learned to balance their aggression -- most of the time, anyway. So notch that up as another win for Jameis Winston on the field, at least in my book.