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What Jameis Winston needs to improve on to be great

Winston is close to being a top 10 quarterback.

Carolina Panthers v Tampa Bay Buccaneers Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Jameis Winston isn’t a great quarterback yet, but the consensus is that that’s just a matter of time. That consensus holds for ESPN’s NFC South reporters, too, as they answered the question of whether Winston will be the next great NFC South quarterback.

While everyone agreed that he can and probably will be great, the reporters focused on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback’s turnovers: cut those down and he’ll be fine, seems to be the consensus. One I mostly I agree with, though I think it’s possible he keeps throwing interceptions at the rate he has been, and still be great—see Brett Favre and even Drew Brees for quarterbacks who work like that.

But Falcons beat writer Vaughn McClure brought up one different point: Winston’s deep ball.

I spoke with a coach who was around Winston when he first entered the league. The coach said there was nothing Winston needed to work on more than his deep-ball touch. Over the last two seasons, Winston is 18-of-81 (22.2 percent) for 672 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions on balls thrown 25-plus air yards down the field.

Winston really hasn’t been accurate with his deep balls, though I think his touch has actually improved: they have a nice arc that would drop balls in the bucket now, they’re just off target. In his rookie year he threw too many deep balls with flat trajectories that make things far too hard on his receivers.

Still, that accuracy really needs to be better. Which is where DeSean Jackson comes in: his speed will open up defenses, but also give Winston a wider throwing window. Jackson’s speed allows him to adjust a little more to balls that are in the air, something that bailed out Kirk Cousins plenty of times last year. With Mike Evans dominating cornerbacks on balls that are thrown remotely near him, Winston has a lot of leeway on his accuracy.