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Jameis Winston got pressured a lot, but handled it well

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Winston was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL when pressured.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Dallas Cowboys Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Jameis Winston faced pressure a lot last year. In fact, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was noticeably affected by a pass rush on 31.7% of his plays, according to Football Outsiders, with only six qualifying quarterbacks being affected more often than Winston.

It’s tempting to lay the blame of that pressure at the feet of the offensive line, and they certainly need to get part of it, but Winston himself also controls a lot of the pressure he gets with the speed with which he goes through his reads and gets rid of the ball. And that, in turn, depends in part on the play of Winston’s receiving options.

Winston has a tendency to hang on to the ball to look for the best play rather than taking the quick option, or throwing away the ball—that’s an admirable quality in some ways, but it also leads to more hits, and can lead to passing up easy chain-moving dumpoffs for bigger plays that never materialize.

More interesting than the precise apportionment of blame, though, is what Winston did with that pressure. By Football Outsiders, he was the third-most efficient quarterback when pressured, and just the eighteenth-most efficient when not pressured. He had the third-smallest gap between his performance under pressure and without pressure in the NFL.

That’s obviously a very good thing: how you handle pressure perhaps predicts your NFL performance better than anything else. At the same time, no quarterback is actually good under pressure. Winston’s efficiency when pressured was worse than the performance of every quarterback when not under pressure, except for Jared Goff.

In other words: avoiding pressure altogether is still a better way to make your offense more efficient than handling pressure well, though the most important thing is obviously to not be Jared Goff.

All of this tracks with Winston’s performance last year, when he was pressured a lot less, but was ranked 20th when not pressured, and sixth when pressured. He improved a little in both categories last season, which bodes well for the future.