One season, he’s the savior. The next, he’s the scapegoat. There’s no other way to describe the up and down career of Tampa Bay Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston. In 2019, he was given the job and probably his last shot at redemption. And so far, he’s the savior once again. But for how long?
Through four games, the Buccaneers are sitting at 2-2, but for Winston, it’s the last two games that have given fans hope. Against the New York Giants, Winston torched the Giants’ secondary for 308 yards, 3 touchdowns while completing 62 percent of his passes. Then came the game against the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday where Winston proved what he could do if dialed in.
Against the team that represented the NFC in the Super Bowl last season and entered the game undefeated, Winston quieted his critics. Well, for four quarters at least. Winston matched Jared Goff throw for throw and needled passes into coverage usually reserved for the likes of Tom Brady and Drew Brees. This was the Winston who was never supposed to lose his job to Ryan Fitzpatrick last season.
Is this reality or just a dream?
Through four games, Winston has thrown nine touchdowns but also has tossed five interceptions. For the record, three of those five came in the first game against the Giants. Since then, Winston has tossed eight touchdowns and just two interceptions. According to those stats, he’s up there with the elite’s of the game. Winston is on pace to have his best season as a pro. He’s already thrown for 1167 yards putting him on pace to best his career-high of 4090 he set in 2016.
But moving forward, will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers get the Winston who finished the last two games on fire or the one who struggled against the Giants and Carolina Panthers? The Buccaneers will face the New Orleans Saints, Panthers, and Tennessee Titans in their next three games.
If the offensive line can provide protection, not only for Winston but the ground game, that should help his development more. What has hindered Winston over his career has been his risk-taking. However, with Mike Evans stepping into the role as one of the best receivers in the game, Winston has taken more confidence in his own approach. What also has helped Winston this season has been the maturity of Evans counterpart Chris Godwin.
With Evans and Godwin as Winston’s main targets, the duo has accounted for 69 targets, 754 yards, and eight touchdowns with a yards per catch average of 17. What’s missing for the offense to take off would be for Winston to find OJ Howard more. In the first four games, Howard has only been targeted 12 times while catching 10 passes for 131 yards with zero touchdowns.
One of the things that may have Bucs’ fans worried is that Jameis Winston is playing on a contract year. Is this one of those seasons where he plays like an elite QB, signs a big deal then regresses? This is not anything out of the norm as this is known to happen. But if the Bucs are poised to win, they will have to do so with a veteran leader in the huddle. There’s no denying the chemistry that Winston has with his receivers. He has earned the praise that he has received the last two weeks and if this type of play continues, Winston can write his own ticket on the open market at the end of the season.
With QB’s taking teams ot the bank, Winston could be the next in line for a huge pay increase. Entering this season, Jameis Winston is earning $20.9M due to the Bucs exercising a team option. What’s impelling for the future is that Winston is just 24 years old and this is still essentially his rookie deal.
If Winston continues his great play, he could earn up to $30M annually. If his play declines over the course of the year, Winston could find himself either on the Bucs’ bench or riding the pine for another team. It’s safe to say that this is a make or break year for the young signal-caller. He’s had his chance to succeed in the NFL and despite his play in 2019, we’ve seen this before.
The question for Winston and Bucs’ fans is–has he earned a long leash this year or if he has another outing as he did against the Giants, does he get pulled? For Winston, when it rains it usaully pours. He has the support of the fans now, but as soon as it begins to go south, Winston will be in trouble.