Jameis Winston loves to throw deep passes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ quarterback ranked eighth in the NFL in percentage of deep passes, and 2nd in the intended depth of his pass attempts at 10.9 yards per pass. Those statistics courtesy of this NFL.com video.
The problem: Jameis Winston hasn’t been all that successful on his deep throws. According to the same video, Winston’s passer rating on deep passes ranked 23rd in the NFL, while his completion percentage was far too low: 23.5%, ranked 27th.
That didn’t stop Winston from trying, obviously, with Mike Evans turning into the most-targeted deep receiver in the NFL last year, despite a lack of production from those attempts.
No WR saw more targets on deep passes in 2016 than Tampa Bay's Mike Evans pic.twitter.com/kqp2tSEatM— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 3, 2017
Judging by the film, most of the fault for the failure of the deep passing game was Jameis Winston’s: he simply wasn’t very accurate on those deep throws. Of course, some of that is always on the receiver too, as they need to adjust to passes in the air and be on the same page as the quarterback—but mostly, it seemed like that wasn’t that big an issue last season.
DeSean Jackson should help the deep passing game in that regard: his speed gives him more time to adjust to those deep passes. He can get there just a little faster, and adjust to under- and overthrows more easily than Evans—though the latter would find it a lot easier to win contested catches.
Jackson will also force safeties to play further off, creating more room for Mike Evans underneath. All of that should improve the passing game even if Winston doesn’t become more accurate on deep throws.
Still, DeSean Jackson’s success and that of the passing game in general will depend on Winston’s improvement. Not just on those deep throws, where he should improve and has been working to improve, but also on finding the checkdown when the deep throw isn’t available.
After all, such a high volume of deep passes with a low success rate suggest that Winston is forcing the ball a little too much. That’s part of his game and one aspect that makes him successful, but getting the ball in the hands of his checkdown options when the deep pass isn’t there would go a long way toward steadily moving the offense forward, too.