TAMPA – The deeper you look into Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston’s second NFL season the more impressive it becomes.
For instance, it’s common knowledge now that Winston set a pair of single-season franchise records last year when he threw for 4,090 yards and 28 touchdowns.
But did you know that, in essence, Winston achieved those feats with little help from his friends in the receiving corps.
Here’s what we mean. The Bucs pass catchers ranked 29th in the league in yards gained after the catch last year, racking up just 1,433 yards in that manner, according to SportingCharts.com.
That means that most of the yards the Bucs gained through the air last year came as a result of Winston simply getting the ball to his targets, and Pro Football Focus has the stats to back that up.
No NFC quarterback saw a higher percentage of his yards come through the air (rather than yards after catch) in 2016 than Jameis Winston. pic.twitter.com/e24nwhk8lC
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) June 24, 2017
As you can see from the tweet above, no quarterback in the conference last year gained more yards through the air than Winston, who was well ahead of his closest rival, Panthers quarterback Cam Newton.
Now, the biggest reason for that is Dirk Koetter’s scheme. It is largely a downfield passing scheme, one that Koetter admits doesn’t really lend itself to quarterbacks producing high completion percentages.
Koetter is on record as saying that as long as he’s in his scheme, Winston may never hit on 65-percent or more of his passes and therefore may never be among the league leaders in completion percentage.
That’s why judging Winston on his completion percentage can be a bit tricky, and why the best read on just how effective Winston is may come from next-gen stats such as air yards and YAC yards.
That Bucs poor showing in that last one, by the way, is one of the reasons they felt a need to get faster this offseason, but there’s something else that can be culled from that number as well.
Because a ball has to be thrown precisely where it needs to be thrown for a pass catcher to have any real chance at gaining good yards after the catch, YAC yards are a good way of gauging a quarterback’s accuracy as well.
Quarterbacks coach Mike Bajakian noted that earlier this year when he explained the new grading system the Bucs have adopted for their quarterbacks during practice.
With their quest being to “turn the receiver into a ball-carrier,’’ the Bucs are grading passes either “Precise,’’ “Accurate’’ or “Off,’’ with “Precise’’ being the kind that can lead to the most YAC yards.
The Bucs hope of course is that if Winston can become more precise, they’ll not only get more air yards out of his throws, they’ll get more YAC yards as well.
If that happens, Winston could start breaking a lot more than just franchise records.