TAMPA – Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston took quite a beating from opposing pass rushers his first two years in the league.
In fact, outside of the Cardinals Carson Palmer (230) and the Seahawks Russell Wilson (225), no quarterback in the league was hit more during that span than Winston, who was hit a whopping 218 times, according to NFL stats.
That doesn’t say much for the Bucs offensive line, but the problem wasn’t all on them either. Winston’s long release, his tendency to not want to give up on a play and the fact he’s regularly asked to stand in the pocket and wait for routes to open up downfield all contributed to him becoming one of the league’s most battered passers as well.
The issue is one that in, the hopes of preserving Winston for the long term, the Bucs knew they had to address before the start of this year, and from the looks of things they’ve addressed it rather well.
Now, it’s only been three games and it’s not like the Bucs have faced any of the league’s most feared defensive fronts just yet but so far Winston has been hit just 12 times, the third fewest in the league.
By the way, of those 12 hits, only five have resulted in sacks, which is tied for fifth fewest in the league, so it appears on the surface at least as if the Bucs are doing a much better job of keeping Winston clean.
“Yeah, I know that stat is floating around right now, and I would just say that it’s been three weeks,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said. “Is that really enough to judge it by? I don’t know.
“But we definitely wanted Jameis to take less hits, and I think we are protecting him better. I think Jameis is getting the ball out quicker, too but I don’t have the stats to back any of that up.’’
Neither does the NFL, but the simple fact Winston is being hit less is a good sign for the Bucs and especially for Winston, who is on pace to get hit just 64 times this year.
That’s almost half as many hits as he’s absorbed each of the last two year, when he took 109 hits in each of his first two seasons, according to the NFL.
That pace may not be sustainable given the requirements of the Bucs offense and Winston’s refusal to quit on plays, but even if the Bucs can limit Winston to less than 100 hits it will be a good step forward.