Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston is more accurate than ever – can he sustain it?

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TAMPA – Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter is not a big stat guy, but some stats are just impossible to ignore. Quarterback Jameis Winston’s current completion percentage is one of them.

After incredibly hitting on 21 of the 29 throws he made during the Bucs 12-8 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night, Winston’s completion percentage currently stands at an eye-popping 71.4.

That’s well above Winston’s career completion percentage of 56.9, which suggests it may not be sustainable. The Bucs, though, have reason to believe it is sustainable.

The Bucs chart every throw Winston makes in practice and games, and according to Koetter, those charts say Winston’s completion percentage is indeed well up over where it was this time last year.

“The numbers we keep in practice are up about the same percent, about 10-percent higher than he was in training camp last year,’’ Koetter said. “And there’s a big enough body of throws there that, if you’re a stat guy, you would say (he is throwing with more accuracy).’’

One of the reasons Winston’s accuracy has improved is because his decision-making has improved. In particular, Winston is doing a better job of simply taking what the defense gives him.

For example, during the first half of Thursday’s game, when the Jaguars were playing zone and taking deep drops in an effort to eliminate big plays, Winston was often content to just hit his check-down target.

In fact, Winston hit five check-downs during the first half of the game, according to Koetter, who also had Winston down for making 27 good decisions, one bad one and one horrible one during the game.

The bad one came when Winston tried to squeeze a ball through a double team to Chris Godwin on the right sideline. The horrible one was when he tried to throw a pass into the end zone from his fanny.

That’s something the Bucs continue to try coach out of Winston, but they know they may never get there because of Winston’s competitiveness and the fact he’s actually succeeded at making plays off those decisions.

“In the heat of the moment, when those plays are going on, Jameis feels like he can save the day and turn it into a play, and he does do that sometimes,’’ Koetter said.

“But then there are times like last night when he makes it worse, and that’s just a hard lesson to learn because he has done it successfully before, too.’’

When he was coming out of college three years ago, there were plenty who wondered out loud if Winston would ever succeed in developing himself into a high-percentage, precision passer.

Even Koetter suggested at one point that as long as he’s in his four-verticals scheme with its great emphasis on big plays, Winston might never become a passer who completes 65-percent or more of his passes.

Winston is well over that mark now, though, and as the Bucs charts suggest, it’s something that he could manage to sustain. As long he keeps making wise decisions.

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