With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 2016 season over, we can start looking back at how some of their players and the team as a whole did. First up, the player around whom this entire team will be built: quarterback Jameis Winston.
As a rookie, Jameis Winston had an up-and-down debut. He combined a few very good outings and a turnover-free streak in the middle of the season, with far too many interceptions both at the start and the end, and accuracy issues throughout.
Those expecting massive improvements must have been disappointed with Winston’s second season, but it was actually a solid step forward. Winston threw for more touchdowns and more yards, and completed a higher percentage of passes. On the flip side, he was less productive per pass and threw slightly more interceptions.
Jameis Winston 2015-16
Other statistics paint similar pictures of mild improvement. Football Outsiders ranked him 15th this season, and 16th last year. In ESPN’s Total QBR he went from 58.6 to 64.9. Overall, Winston is an average to slightly above average quarterback right now.
We could blame some of this somewhat disappointing progression on injuries at wide receiver, but those plagued the team in 2015, too. Overall, neither the line nor the receiving corps was worse this season than when he was a rookie. However, the running game absolutely collapsed this season.
Doug Martin, apparently dealing with a drug issue that led to a four-game suspension, never topped 2.9 yards per carry and missed several games. Charles Sims, who produced over 1,000 yards from scrimmage in 2015, missed almost the entire season. As a team, the Bucs averaged a pitiful 3.6 yards per carry.
That must have accounted for some of Winston’s somewhat disappointing progress, but most of all, he still struggled with some of the issues that have plagued him throughout his career in college and the NFL: turnovers and accuracy. There were signs of improvement in both areas, but nothing earth-shattering.
All of which is to be expected. Quarterbacks generally improve the most between year two and three, which is what we should hope to see in Winston, too. Mild improvement in year two, and a real breakout season in year three.
That breakout season won’t be all sunshine and roses, likely. Winston will always be the kind of quarterback who throws a few too many interceptions, but also produces a lot of highlight plays and can lead an offense to victories.
Brett Favre is still my favorite comparison for the Bucs quarterback. And while Winston struggled at times, he certainly played well enough for the team to win nine games. With a little more offseason work on his footwork, 2017 could be a very good season for one of the youngest quarterbacks in the NFL.