The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have to be pleased with the way Jameis Winston bounced back against the New Orleans Saints today. After a terrible outing in week one to which a lot of people overreacted, Winston looked a lot closer to the quarterback the Bucs thought they were getting when they drafted him with the first overall pick this year: calm, collected, poised under pressure and creating a lot of big plays at the right moments.
Winston's statistics alone were relatively impressive. He completed 14 of 21 passes for 207 yards for one touchdown and no interceptions, with three sacks and one fumble. Those statistics don't include the 40-yard defensive pass interference drawn on a deep throw to Louis Murphy, and he added a couple of key runs, including a two-yard touchdown and a nine-yard third-down conversion near the end of the game.
It wasn't just the statistics, either. Helped by a much-improved offensive line with far fewer communication breakdowns, he looked comfortable in the pocket, his footwork steady and his mechanics much more compact and efficient than they were last week. He looked like that quarterback who showed up during week two of the preseason, and the guy who'd worked on his mechanics and footwork all offseason long -- where last week, his footwork and mechanics were a complete disaster.
He also made far better decisions. There were few bad decisions, and no balls thrown straight to defenders whatsoever -- while Drew Brees had a handful of those kinds of throws. He was even let down by some drops by his receivers, including an ugly one by Austin Seferian-Jenkins on what would have put the Bucs in the red zone early in the game. And then there was Mike Evans being questionably ruled out of bounds on a deep throw down the sideline -- Evans had no catches on the game, oddly enough, continuing the preseason refrain.
In short: Winston gave us glimpses of the star quarterback he has the potential to be.
At the same time, it's important not to overreact to this game, either. Winston looked good, but he was not flawless -- he still looked to run a little too often and early one of those leading to what could have been a game-killing fumble, and he had a couple of misfires at the goal-line that could have put the game away instead of forcing them to settle for a field goal. He also faced a pretty bad defense, which obviously helps his comfort level. Those flaws will continue to show up throughout the year, and there will undoubtedly be some games where they lead to a loss. Such is the life of a rookie quarterback.
See all of those other young quarterbacks who played today. Marcus Mariota struggled against the Cleveland Browns being sacked seven times and fumbling three times, while playing against Johnny Manziel who looked more like his college self rather than the turnover machine he was last week. All of which to say that young quarterbacks, and especially rookies are inconsistent. They will struggle one week while looking like stars the next. There's no need to panic when Winston looks terrible for a week -- and similarly, a good week doesn't mean he's definitively arrived, either.
Winston looked like a much better quarterback this week. He'll likely have some ups and downs for the rest of the season, but this was a really encouraging performance and a good example of what the rookie can be if he keeps developing.