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Jameis Winston needs a second receiver this offseason

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Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Quarterback guru now turned ESPN Analyst Jon Gruden asked then NFL draft prospect QB Jameis Winston after throwing another interception to his favorite receiver Rashad Greene, "What's Jimbo telling you, ‘Quit throwing it to Rashad!' " This occurred during Gruden's QB Camp series on ESPN, at 11:50.

Before I continue on posting Winston's stats, let me post the WR distribution for the 2014 Atlanta Falcons, the final year Dirk Koetter coached the Falcons' offense. Koetter now is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach.

Atlanta Falcons
2013
WRs and TEs Stats
Player Pos TDs Rec Tar WR/TE Total Tar/Total
Julio Jones WR 6 104 164 489 33.5%
Roddy White WR 7 80 122 489 24.9%
Harry Douglas WR 2 51 75 489 15.3%
Devin Hester WR 2 38 59 489 12.1%
Levine Toilolo TE 2 31 54 489 11.0%
Eric Weems WR 2 10 11 489 2.2%
Courtney Roby WR 0 1 2 489 0.4%
Bear Pasco TE 1 2 2 489 0.4%
WR and TE Totals 22 317 489 100%

Matt Ryan threw 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions with an interception rate of 2.2%.

FSU Years

FSU
2013
WRs and TEs Stats
Player Pos Rec Team WR Rec Tar/Team WR Rec
Rashad Greene WR 76 237 32.1%
Kelvin Benjamin WR 54 237 22.8%
Kenny Shaw WR 54 237 22.8%
Nick O'Leary TE 33 237 13.9%
Christian Green WR 13 237 5.5%
Jesus Wilson WR 3 237 1.3%
Isaiah Jones 2 237 0.8%
Shayne Broxsie 2 237 0.8%
WR and TE Totals 237 1

That is Florida State's National Championship year. Winston threw 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. The distribution to the wide receivers does not look like there is a single favoritism developed to Greene.

FSU
2014
WRs and TEs Stats
Player Pos Rec Team WR Rec Tar/Team WR Rec
Rashad Greene WR 99 251 39.4%
Nick O'Leary TE 48 251 19.1%
Jesus Wilson WR 42 251 16.7%
Travis Rudolf WR 38 251 15.1%
Ermon Lane WR 13 251 5.2%
Christian Greene WR 6 251 2.4%
Kevin Haplea 2 251 0.8%
Jarred Haggins WR 1 251 0.4%
Ja'Vonn Harrison 1 251 0.4%
Bryan Izzo 1 251 0.4%
WR and TE Totals 251 1

In this season, Winston threw 25 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. There is a significant difference in WR distribution in this season compared to 2013.  By default, Winston made FSU's offense a one-WR offense. This is what Gruden identified with Winston's interception trend -€” opposing teams knew that Greene would be the target all day. In one instance in Gruden's interview, Gruden asked why Winston did not throw the ball to the check down who was wide open and, instead, threw the ball to the first read. Winston overthrew the ball and it was intercepted.

TB Years

Tampa Bay Bucs
2015
WRs and TEs Stats
Player Pos G GS TD's Rec Tar WR/TE Total Tar/Total
Mike Evans WR 1 14 3 74 147 407 36.1%
Cam Brate TE 14 4 3 33 64 407 15.7%
Adam Humphries WR 13 0 1 27 41 407 10.1%
Russell Shepard WR 13 1 1 21 40 407 9.8%
Vincent Jackson WR 10 9 3 23 30 407 7.4%
Brandon Myers TE 11 6 0 11 30 407 7.4%
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins TE 7 3 4 10 18 407 4.4%
Louis Murphy WR 6 1 0 7 14 407 3.4%
Luke Stocker TE 14 13 1 9 13 407 3.2%
Donteea Dye WR 10 6 1 3 10 407 2.5%
WR and TE Totals 17 218 407 100%

Lovie Smith made it a point for Winston to start spreading the ball around, including passing it to Vincent Jackson because he was targeting Mike Evans too much for Winston's rookie season. Here is a quote from JoeBucsFan.com about that situation in late September:

"I think Vincent was maybe targeted about four times [Sunday]. Yes, we acknowledge that we need to get him involved more," Lovie said. "That's, you know, a great player. But some games you have a favorable matchup with a certain guy. And before you know it you look and it's not exactly, it's not spread out to the way you would like to, as far as to all of your receivers."

Jackson was targeted four times in that game against the Houston Texans. Evans was targeted 17 times in that same game. For his first season, Winston threw 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions with an interception rate of 2.8%.

Tampa Bay Bucs
2016
WRs and TEs Stats
Player Pos G GS TDs Rec Tar WR/TE Total Tar/Total
Mike Evans WR 16 16 12 96 175 489 35.8%
Cam Brate TE 15 10 8 57 81 489 16.6%
Adam Humphries WR 15 4 2 55 82 489 16.8%
Russell Shepard WR 14 4 2 23 40 489 8.2%
Vincent Jackson WR 5 5 0 15 31 489 6.3%
Cecil Shorts WR 9 5 0 11 27 489 5.5%
Freddy Martino WR 13 0 1 8 11 489 2.2%
Brandon Myers TE 16 6 1 7 14 489 2.9%
Austin Sefarian-Jenkins TE 2 0 1 3 4 489 0.8%
Josh Huff WR 3 0 0 3 6 489 1.2%
Alan Cross TE 14 0 1 6 10 489 2.0%
Luke Stocker TE 12 10 0 5 8 489 1.6%
Donteea Dye WR 1 0 0 0 0 489 0.0%
WR and TE Totals 28 289 489 100.0%

This is not a very good trend.  Winston threw for 28 touchdowns and 18 interceptions with an interception rate of 3.2%. That is an increase in interception rate. That is also not a very good trend.

With an offense struggling to put points on the board, let alone move the ball across the field, those interceptions affected the game. The Bucs missed the playoffs by a tie breaker. One win could have put them into the playoffs.

In the penultimate game of the season, the Bucs lost to the New Orleans Saints by 7 points, 31 -€” 24.  With the Bucs down by six points coming out of the first half, an interception was thrown after two offensive plays. It was a deep pass to Evans that was intercepted at the TB 38 and returned to the 14 yard line. The Saints promptly scored for a Red Zone touchdown and changed the dynamic of the game quickly.

Summary

In Winston's short collegiate and NFL career, his best year was when he was able to distribute the ball more evenly among wide receivers in 2013. I cannot explain why there is an explicit favoritism for Mike Evans in Winston's rookie year, but it is apparent why there was favoritism the following year in 2016 -€” no other talented weapons.

The Bucs need a top talent wide receiver to force two issues:  1) Make the defense worry about someone other than Mike Evans in throwing situations and 2) Make Winston distribute the ball better among wide receivers.

Corollary

Recently, Sander Philipse wrote an article depicting the need to throw to their running backs more:  link.  In 2015, the Bucs' RB produced 6 receiving touchdowns. In 2016, they only had one receiving touchdown.  As for targets, there was an 8.5% drop from 2015 to 2016 in targeting running backs.  In 2015, it was 128 targets for 23.9% of the 535 total targets. Then in 2016, it was 89 targets for 15.4% of the 578 total targets.

There could be a number of reasons why there was a drop in running back targets. One of them could be due to down and distance, particularly on third downs. Another reason could be the use of slot receiver Adam Humphries in a bunch formation for a quick dump and run, a jet stream scheme at times. Lastly, Winston is not looking to dump the ball as he is big game hunting most of the time.

Which brings us back to Gruden's Camp interview, Gruden asked why Winston did not dump the ball to the open running back. I asked myself that question a few times this past season as well.