Jameis Winston did something not many would have predicted on Sunday night. He outperformed Aaron Rodgers throwing five touchdowns and leading the New Orleans Saints to a 38-3 victory.
Sure – the former first-round draft pick only threw for 148 yards and completed 14 of his meager 20 pass attempts. But he still put up better numbers than Rodgers at the Superdome and what’s more – he didn’t throw any interceptions.
His five touchdowns included a 55-yard bomb to Deonte Harris which reminded us of just what Winston is capable of. And it’s fair to say fans needed reminding. The last time Winston played as a starter was in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and he had a baffling season. The 27-year-old put up 5,109 yards and 30 touchdowns which sounds MVP level until you factor in the 30 interceptions.
Jameis Winston today: 14/20, 148 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTspic.twitter.com/bHhxQ6EBgN
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) September 12, 2021
While Bruce Arians mostly shoved the blame onto Winston and dumped him for superstar Tom Brady, Winston has now spent the better part of two years under the tutelage of Sean Payton and Drew Brees.
And as the newly named starting quarterback of the Saints, the 27-year-old is about to establish himself with a career-defining season that will remove any doubt over his abilities.
Jameis Winston Staring Down Career Season With New Orleans Saints
Winston has proven he has the arm strength and reading ability to play a solid and potentially threatening vertical game. His 5,109-yard season is evidence of that if you accept that he cannot bear the sole responsibility for the high volume of picks.
So where better for him to settle down than the former home of the only quarterback to put up multiple 5,000-yard seasons? Drew Brees actually did it five times with the Saints, so it’s safe to say Winston’s aptitude for letting it fly is in safe hands with Sean Payton.
Jameis Winston just connected deep to Deonte Harris and that's five touchdown passes for Jameis in his first game as #Saints starter.pic.twitter.com/gCkV441YiT
— Billy Heyen (@BillyHeyen) September 12, 2021
When he joined the Saints, Winston put his ego aside and said he was set to receive ‘the Harvard education of quarterback school’ regarding the team’s quarterback and coaches.
Winston may have gone first in the 2015 draft but not everyone is ready for the tough transition to the NFL. His comments show he has a healthy attitude for someone who has faced adversity at this stage in their career and that he was ready and willing to learn.
Jameis Winston Has Better Pass Protection
Another factor that should help Jameis this season is better protection. While his offensive line in Tampa was far from dire, he was sacked 47 times. Only three quarterbacks were sacked more than he was in 2019. This was partly down to Bruce Arians who regularly tried to get five eligible receivers into routes on every pass play.
This meant the defense nearly always brought more players than the Bucs could block. Other factors that played their part included injuries on the line and, of course, Jameis holding onto the ball for longer than necessary. But Winston has said the most important thing he learned from Brees was to make the right decisions, something which was evident in already preseason.
The Saints, on the other hand, ranked in the top 10 last season when it came to their pass-blocking efficiency, according to Pro Football Focus.
The New Orleans Saints offensive line is one of the most formidable units in the league. Pro Football focus has them fourth overall heading into the 2021 season. This is thanks largely to Ryan Ramczyk and Terron Armstead – the best tackle tandem in the league. Behind them, Winston should get sufficient time to read the field and make plays.
Winston Has More Appropriate Weapons
What won’t hurt Winston’s chances to deliver this season is having weapons-grade talent surrounding him. Star-caliber players such as Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas. Sure, Winston had a top receiving duo in the form of Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in Tampa but the offensive system failed to convert yards and completions into game-winning performances. And it was far from the Super Bowl-winning offense that Tom Brady led to victory last season.
Kamara adds an explosive dimension to the system Winston now finds himself in, designed by one of the best minds in the league. Not only does Kamara deliver on the ground, he is also one of the league’s top all-around threats. He has had at least 100 targets and 80 receptions in each of his four seasons with the Saints as well as 15 touchdowns. He added another one to that tally on Sunday. This option will provide balance for Winston and he should target him plenty this season.
Football is back so yeah, Alvin Kamara is scoring touchdowns. #Saints
📺: #GBvsNO on FOX
📱: NFL app pic.twitter.com/jElEmYh7Gu
— NFL (@NFL) September 12, 2021
Michael Thomas is also another player who will improve Jameis Winston and his performance. Provided he is able to come back from the ankle injury suffered in 2020, Thomas is a big presence and a physical player on the field who loves to compete for the ball. Factors that weigh in Winston’s favor include Thomas’s ability to move the ball downfield and his ability to snag the ball when under pressure.
The 28-year-old ranked fourth among receivers for contested catches and third for yards after the catch. Both of these skills are going to help Winston take advantage of his affinity to air it out.
Winston Will Want to Get Paid
Winston re-signed with the Saints on a relatively modest one-year, $12 million contract with no guarantees about being the starter. It was a considerable raise from his previous year but still pales in comparison to the gold-plated quarterback contracts out there.
With Taysom Hill sticking around after signing a cap-friendly, four-year, $140 million extension (with voidable years), Winston will want to cement his position as Drew’s solid replacement. He will be desperate not to throw away what is likely his last chance to change his reputation. He won’t want to go down as a former top draft pick who never reached his potential as a pro.
Winston has been honing his skills under some veteran experts of the game. Now with an elite coach, improved O-Line and a better-suited system, Winston will be motivated to deliver the goods this year so he can secure a serious pay-day next offseason.
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