If you were to look at the raw statistics, Jameis Winston had a pretty mediocre game against the Houston Texans. Completing 17 of 36 passes for 261 yards, one touchdown, one interception and no sacks is not a statline to write home about. But looking at the game as a whole, Winston actually played pretty well. He made a number of big throws, was generally accurate and mostly made good decisions. It wasn't perfect, but it was encouraging -- and he certainly wasn't the reason the Bucs lost the game, which is often all you can ask for out of a rookie quarterback.
One reason why Winston's statistics look worse than his actual play is that his receivers couldn't bring down a lot of catches that were within their grasp, and failed to get a lot of extra yardage after the catch. This video shows a few examples of the Bucs receivers failing to help out Jameis Winston -- though I wouldn't call all of these plays "drops" necessarily (via Tomahawk Nation).
No doubt this shows a lot of plays where the Bucs receivers could have helped Winston. Each of those balls is catchable, though few of them are easy. On a good day, those players hold on to those balls -- they obviously did not have a good day. But there are only two plays that most analysts would call real drops on this reel: the Russell Shepard catch and the short one to Evans are plays that receivers routinely make. The others are catchable balls (though the slant behind Evans is incredibly tough), but they'll also fall incomplete pretty frequently whether that's because of quality play by the defenders or just poor ball placement.
Mediocre play by the receiving corps wasn't the only issue facing Winston. The Bucs also clearly missed Austin Seferian-Jenkins' presence. Brandon Myers had three catches for just 18 yards, and no other tight end even got a target. The Bucs missed a receiving presence that could threaten the middle of the field, and that was noticeable. All of that hurt Jameis Winston's bottom line, even if the quality of his play was reasonable and encouraging for his development. Surprisingly, the pass protection was not a part of the problem for the rookie quarterback.
But what really happened out there? To get a better view of the situation, I just decided to go over every throw Jameis Winston made yesterday and try to figure out what happened. There's no All-22 footage yet so any attempt to analyze his reads is going to be necessarily flawed, but I think we'll get a pretty good picture of what happened anyway.
2-15-TB 17 (11:49) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass deep middle to V.Jackson to TB 26 for 19 yards (R.Moore) [J.Watt].
Pocket holds up, though Watt falls at Winston's feet as he makes the throw. Great throw to a covered Vincent Jackson where only he can make the play, great contested catch, holds on through hard hit and cornerback ripping at the ball.
1-10-TB 26 (11:14) J.Winston pass deep left to M.Evans ran ob at HST 44 for 30 yards. PENALTY on TB-M.Evans, Offensive Pass Interference, 10 yards, enforced at TB 26 - No Play.
Terrific deep throw away from coverage where only Evans can make a play. Good catch nullified by very iffy OPI call.
3-15-TB 21 (9:09) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to V.Jackson.
Clean pocket. Poor throw short of Jackson and short of the first down, with Jackson reasonably well-covered -- defense has n chance of making a play at least. Evans seems to be open for a first down on the left.
1-10-TB 20 (4:58) J.Winston pass deep left to M.Evans pushed ob at TB 40 for 20 yards (K.Jackson).
Clean pocket, nice back-shoulder throw, nice catch -- great timing on a three-step drop throw.
3-6-TB 44 (3:18) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete deep right to M.Evans (J.Joseph).
First throw in the video above. Clean pocket, good throw, good catch, great play by Jonathan Joseph to knock the ball out. If Winston puts the ball just a little further outside and a little deeper, Joseph probably can't make that play -- but that's nitpicking. Evans hangs on to this ball on a good day.
1-10-TB 20 (14:15) J.Winston pass short left to M.Evans to TB 36 for 16 yards (K.Jackson).
Play-action, clean pocket, accurate throw on an in-route, Evans make the catch while being tackled.
1-10-TB 36 (13:41) J.Winston pass short middle to M.Evans to HST 46 for 18 yards (K.Jackson).
Jadeveon Clowney beats Donovan Smith, Jameis Winston stands in there and takes the hit to deliver the pass to a wide-open Evans who beat Kareem Jackson. Easy catch.
2-14-50 (12:15) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to L.Murphy (J.Joseph).
Clean pocket, bad throw behind Louis Murphy on an out route giving Joseph the chance to knock the ball away before Murphy can make a play -- better placement makes this an easy catch. Winston has to place these throws further outside or they will eventually turn into picks.
3-14-50 (12:11) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to B.Myers to HST 40 for 10 yards (K.Johnson; E.Pleasant) [J.Crick].
J.J. Watt beats Donovan Smith, who pushes him just barely beyond Winston. Jameis Winston escapes when he could have stood in there, which allows two defenders who had been blocked to pressure him. Still makes a good throw to an open Myers while taking a hit on the scramble drill.
1-10-TB 17 (5:51) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to B.Myers.
Second throw in the video above. Clean pocket, Myers does well to get open, but he has to jump and stretch to get to a ball that appears to be just beyond his reach, in part because Winston has to fit it over an underneath linebacker. Myers isn't making this catch very often, if ever. A little lower and a little further ahead of Myers and this is an easy first down.
3-12-TB 15 (5:04) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to R.Shepard [J.Watt].
Third throw in the video above, clear drop on a screen pass. Could have had a roughing call on Jadeveon Clowney here, who hits him a few steps after the ball is gone, or J.J. Watt, who is on time but hits Winston low.
2-6-HST 22 (4:06) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to C.Sims. PENALTY on TB-J.Hawley, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at HST 22 - No Play.
Basically a throw-away on a busted screen play as a linebacker is all over Sims. Hawley with the most ludicrous hold I've seen in ages. He basically pulls down Vince Wilfork from behind by his jersey.
2-16-HST 32 (4:01) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to C.Sims for 32 yards, TOUCHDOWN
Quick pitch-and-catch on the receiver screen, nice work by Sims to turn this into a touchdown.
Charles Sims with a little homecoming touchdown https://t.co/4fiXJYUBMe— Trevor Sikkema (@TrevorSikkema) September 27, 2015
2-14-TB 29 (1:27) J.Winston pass short left to B.Myers pushed ob at TB 33 for 4 yards (E.Pleasant).
Quick swing pass.
3-10-TB 33 (1:22) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass deep right to V.Jackson ran ob at HST 46 for 21 yards.
Texans blitz, Bucs keep in two backs as blockers. Winston rolls away from free blitzers and hits a wide-open Vincent Jackson in a big gap between cornerback and safety on the sideline. Good throw, easy catch.
1-10-HST 46 (1:15) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to V.Jackson (J.Joseph).
Fourth throw in video above. Quick, accurate throw to Jackson who can't hold on because Joseph hits him as he tries to make the catch. Jackson probably holds on to this ball 50% of the time or so.
2-10-HST 46 (1:11) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to L.Murphy (K.Johnson).
Clean pocket, decent throw underneath, Kareem Jackson just gets a terrific break on the ball to knock it away. Murphy's route is sloppy and he could help his quarterback by moving towards the ball instead of waiting for it, maybe preventing the pass breakup. Brandon Myers underneath may have been a better option, but the decision is probably fine.
3-10-HST 46 (1:06) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete deep middle to M.Evans [J.Crick].
Winston steps up to avoid a free blitzer, hits Evans under a bit of pressure and the receiver just drops it. Better ball placement (probably lacking because of pressure) would have led Evans upfield instead of toward the line of scrimmage, but he should have easily caught this one.
1-10-TB 20 (15:00) J.Winston pass short right to M.Evans to TB 38 for 18 yards (J.Joseph).
Clean pocket, good anticipation throw in stride to Evans right as he comes out of his break. Evans still kind of struggles to cleanly catch the ball -- not having a good day.
2-7-TB 41 (14:04) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to M.Evans
Fifth throw in the video above. Clear drop by Evans on an easy, quick throw underneath.
3-7-TB 41 (14:00) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short middle intended for M.Evans INTERCEPTED by Q.Demps [J.Clowney] at HST 45. Q.Demps to HST 45 for no gain (M.Evans).
Clean pocket, though Clowney gets a late hit on Winston that doesn't affect the throw. Horrible decision to force a throw to Winston with a cornerback underneath and a safety over the top -- Evans is covered all the way. Easy pick for Demps.
1-10-TB 20 (12:37) J.Winston pass incomplete deep middle to M.Evans
Clean pocket, overthrows Evans deep while Evans is again double covered. This was a shot play with only Jackson and Evans running routes and both were covered, so Winston didn't really have another option than to throw it up there. May have had a chance of succeeding had Winston led Evans in a different direction.
3-8-TB 22 (11:50) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to V.Jackson [J.Simon]. PENALTY on HST-J.Simon, Roughing the Passer, 15 yards, enforced at TB 22 - No Play.
Clean pocket until the last second, does a good job standing and delivering. Jackson is open but Winston overthrows him on an out route. Takes a low hit just after delivering the ball that doesn't affect the the throw. First down via roughing penalty.
3-6-TB 41 (10:26) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to M.Evans to TB 49 for 8 yards (A.Bouye). Houston challenged the pass completion ruling, and the play was REVERSED. (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to M.Evans.
Sixth throw in the video above. Quick throw, clean pocket. Winston throws a slant low and behind Evans into a tight window creating a very tough throw. There was room to hit Evans a little more in stride, though it's not a very big window. Evans seems to make a great catch, reaching low and behind him while going forward, but Bouye wrests the ball out of Evans' hands as he goes to the ground.
3-6-HST 23 (7:28) J.Winston pass deep right to V.Jackson for 23 yards, TOUCHDOWN. The Replay Official reviewed the pass completion ruling, and the play was REVERSED. J.Winston pass incomplete deep right (J.Joseph)
Clean pocket, good back-shoulder throw, great catch by Jackson who holds on despite Joseph ripping at the ball --he just can't get the second foot in bounds because Joseph's leg is in the way.
1-10-TB 26 (4:27) J.Winston pass incomplete short right.
Throwaway after free blitzer on protection breakdown forced him to scramble.
2-10-TB 26 (4:20) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short right to M.Evans to TB 32 for 6 yards (J.Joseph).
Quick pitch and catch to beat the blitz. Clean pocket, easy catch -- though Evans double clutches this one for no reason..
3-4-TB 32 (3:38) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to M.Evans.
Clean pocket, quick throw, too high for Evans. This may be a timing/route depth issue between quarterback and receiver, though it's still very high.
1-10-TB 26 (13:39) J.Winston pass deep left to L.Murphy to HST 41 for 33 yards (K.Jackson) [J.Watt].
Pressure from Watt who beats Gosder Cherilus. Winston throws it up for Murphy and he rewards Winston with a contested catch, using his body to shield the ball.
1-10-HST 41 (12:53) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to B.Myers pushed ob at HST 37 for 4 yards (Q.Demps).
Clean pocket, Winston scrambles when he could have stood in there, hits Myers late on a dumpoff.
2-6-HST 37 (12:14) J.Winston pass deep left to L.Murphy to HST 18 for 19 yards (K.Johnson)
Late pressure, back-shoulder throw that's a little too low but Murphy makes a great adjustment to haul it in.
2-7-HST 15 (11:08) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short left to M.Evans.
Clean pocket, throws it up for Evans who has no chance to make the catch because Kareem Jackson is holding down one arm. Should have been a flag.
3-7-HST 15 (11:03) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to M.Evans.
Quick slant behind Evans, who has no real chance to make that catch. May have been trying to keep Evans away from the safety, in which case this is miscommunication instead of a bad throw.
1-10-TB 21 (9:06) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete deep right to L.Murphy (J.Joseph).
Clean pocket, solid seam throw to Murphy who can't hang on because of a great play to rip out the ball by Joseph.
3-5-TB 26 (8:21) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass incomplete short right to M.Evans.
Clean pocket, quick throw outside of Evans' reach. Might be a bad throw, might be a timing issue.
1-10-TB 20 (1:12) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to L.Murphy to TB 29 for 9 yards (K.Jackson).
Quick slant, decent placement, good catch.
2-1-TB 29 (:53) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass deep left to M.Evans pushed ob at TB 46 for 17 yards (Q.Demps).
Quick throw, clean pocket, a little behind Evans, but still an easy catch.
1-10-TB 46 (:49) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to C.Sims to HST 45 for 9 yards (J.Simon).
Quick dumpoff. Easy pitch and catch.
2-1-HST 45 (:26) (Shotgun) J.Winston pass short left to M.Evans pushed ob at HST 39 for 6 yards (K.Johnson)
Quick and easy throw.
In all, the receivers didn't do as badly as I expected going in. There were only three clear drops, and the Bucs had a few more contested catches than I remembered on first viewing. I counted six contested passes (including the non-touchdown to Jackson), with the Bucs coming down with two of them. That's not great, but it's perfectly within the realm of expectations. In all, that makes for seven throws the Bucs receivers could have had but didn't -- too many to be sure, and they certainly made Winston look worse than he played, but that's not quite as bad as I would have guessed while watching the game.
Jameis Winston's decisions are worth mentioning too There was one terrible decision on the interception, but other than that throw his decision making was largely fine. He only left the pocket early twice -- a massive improvement on the past two games -- and on both of those occasions you could argue that he made the right decision to scramble.
Finally, there's the issue of Winston's accuracy. I counted only seven inaccurate passes on 37 attempts, which is pretty good. Although you might quibble with the ball placement on a few throws I'd call accurate, that would mostly be nitpicking. And of Winston's seven inaccurate throws, five of them could be the result of timing and miscommunication issues, rather than a poorly-thrown ball. We'll likely never know whether the slants to Evans were intentionally behind him, and whether those sideline throws were off because of route depth. Even so, between two and seven inaccurate throws in his third start is pretty good -- and a standard many starting quarterbacks can't regularly reach.
All in all, this was an impressive game for Winston. He was mostly accurate, made a bunch of big-time throws, looked composed under pressure, stood in the pocket and didn't look to run or scramble unnecessarily. It's another step forward -- which is exactly what you want out of a rookie quarterback.