Analytics say Bucs’ Winston best when targeting tight ends

photo by Samuel Stringer/Icon Sportswire


TAMPA – The Buccaneers targeted their tight ends more last year than they did the year before and with the arrival of O.J. Howard you would expect that trend to continue into the 2017 season and beyond. Considering the success quarterback Jameis Winston has had throwing to tight ends, it would probably be a mistake not to.

Since he came to the NFL three years ago, Winston has compiled the fifth-best passer rating in the league when targeting his tight ends, according to the numbers-crunchers at Pro Football Focus. His rating when targeting all other positions, meanwhile, ranks as the third-worst in the league among qualifying quarterbacks.

Per PFF’s “exclusive’’ statistical research, Winston targeted his tight ends 202 times during his first two years in the league. The results include an eyebrow-raising passer rating of 116.8 that during that span was bettered only by Tom Brady, Andy Dalton, Philip Rivers and Kirk Cousins.

That’s the good news. The bad news, as we pointed out, is that Winston has been nowhere near as efficient when targeting all other potential pass catchers. Across all the throws he’s made to running backs, slot receivers and wideouts, Winston has compiled an 84.4 passer rating, which ranks third worst among all quarterbacks the last two years.

Now, that’s not a bad number necessarily. That 84.4 rating is just below Winston’s overall career mark of 85.2, but it further suggests there’s a real need for Winston to take better advantage of some of his better pass-catching options, Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson in particular.

And the Bucs know that. It’s one of the reasons they have focused so squarely this offseason on improving Winston’s timing and accuracy. There’s a chance, though, that the mere presence of Jackson will help Winston in that endeavor.

We’re digging even deeper now into advanced metrics, an area that some, including Bucs coach Dirk Koetter find a little ridiculous, but nevertheless, according to PFF’s Scott Barrett, Kirk Cousins last year compiled the best adjusted-yards-per-pass-attempt (AY/A) in the past decade while throwing to Jackson.

Now granted, that’s a very small sample size. But if you look a little deeper you’ll find that in terms of AY/A, which is defined about as concisely as it can be here, Jackson has made a habit of improving the overall play of the quarterbacks he’s worked with.

The best part, of course, is that there is nothing to suggest that trend will change now that Jackson is with the Bucs, so there’s reason to believe here that Winston could be in for a breakout year himself, especially if he targets those tight ends a little more.



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