Jameis Winston is beginning to change the narrative with the Saints

·3 min read

It’s just one game. It’s just one season. It’s not even 200 pass attempts.

There are all sorts of qualifiers you could throw in to downplay the growth Jameis Winston has shown the last few years. He left the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under a dark cloud — called a draft bust, a turnover-prone liability, and worse. Critics looked at his last year in pewter and red and said that’s all there was for him in the NFL.

Then he joined the New Orleans Saints. He spent a year on the bench behind Drew Brees and in meetings with Sean Payton and Pete Carmichael Jr.. Taysom Hill had a head start on the backup gig, and he and Winston made a real competition of it in their first full offseason together. He’s learned from those experiences to develop as a pro, and you could make a case that he just played his best football in Week 1’s dramatic fourth-quarter comeback.

If nothing else, you can say the 40-yard completion he sent to slot receiver Jarvis Landry was the finest pass Winston has thrown in a Saints uniform. NFL Next Gen Stats tracking from Zebra Technologies found that the ball traveled 53.8 yards from Winston’s arm to Landry’s waiting mitts, and he couldn’t have placed it any better. That same tracking service reported that the microchips in Landry’s shoulder pads and those in the defenders around him were separated by just 0.6 yards, or about 22 inches. It was awarded the honor of the NFL’s least-probable completion in Week 1, and that measurement looks accurate when you check the field-level view of the play from WDSU TV’s Sharief Ishaq.

Impressive as that is, we’ve always known that Winston can heave the ball downfield. There hasn’t been any question about his big-play ability. The heaviest criticism has focused on his ball security. That’s going to happen when he throws 30 interceptions in a single 16-game season, as was the case in his last year with Tampa Bay. So it’s all the more encouraging to see Winston protecting the ball well in a Saints uniform.

Winston has started 8 games for New Orleans, having lost the 2021 season to an injury against his old team. He’s attempted 207 passes for them (including the playoffs), totaling 126 completions against just 3 interceptions. That’s a turnover rate of 1.4%, and makes for a narrative-busting ratio when taken against his touchdown passes (17, or 8.2%). To give you some context, as a Buc he scored a touchdown on 4.7% of his career pass attempts while throwing an interception on 3.5% of them.

Maybe that’s a good advertisement for LASIK eye surgery, which Winston famously underwent back in 2020. Maybe it’s a sign of his genuine growth and evolving play style. Maybe it’s too small a sample size to make any real takeaways from (to be fair, Winston attempted 2,548 passes for Tampa Bay). At this point I’m leaning towards wanting to see more tape from Winston before making any definitive judgment. That’s likely where the Saints are, too. It’s really difficult to say he’s fixed all his flaws and is ready to lead the franchise for a decade when he just went into halftime with negative passing yards, having gained 24 through the air and lost 26 to sacks.

Still, it’s a credit to Winston’s resilience that he overcame that adversity. He’s bounced back from season-ending injuries and a double-digit deficit to start the new year with a win. If he can keep it up, he’ll continue proving doubters wrong and answering questions and building more support. It’s exciting to see him seizing this opportunity and then push for more. Now let’s see him do it against the team that gave up on him.

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Story originally appeared on Saints Wire