If Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston wasn’t suspended for the first three games of the regular season, his impressive preseason performance would be getting a lot more attention.
It’s arguable that the best quarterback in the NFL through two preseason games is Winston. His production has been off the charts: 24 of 31 (77.4 percent), 328 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions. Through the first two preseason weeks, Winston’s 132.2 passer rating was tops among all NFL quarterbacks with more than 16 attempts. If you didn’t know anything else going on, you’d think Winston was on the verge of a true breakout season. He’ll try to stay hot on Friday night against the Detroit Lions, a game that can be seen on the Yahoo Sports mobile app (IOS and Android) at 8 p.m. ET.
Yet, Winston is dominating against backups, because he’s with the backups himself. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been getting the starts because he’s going to start the first three games of the season while Winston serves his suspension. The upcoming suspension pours a lot of cold water on Winston’s hot preseason.
Jameis Winston has been playing well despite the off-field news
Winston was suspended three games by the NFL over an incident in which he was accused of groping an Uber driver. That incident happened in March of 2016, and Winston has since apologized and said he has matured, and eliminated alcohol from his life.
Winston’s comments are mostly meaningless; he needs to show with his actions he won’t get in any more trouble. He doesn’t really deserve the benefit of the doubt anymore. Presumably he can get back in the Buccaneers’ good graces by not getting in trouble and playing really well, and it looks so far like he might do the latter.
Winston made some great throws in last week’s preseason game against the Tennessee Titans, though he got lucky when he threw one up under pressure and it happened to be caught for a touchdown. Still, the overall body of work, albeit a small sample against mostly second-team defenders in the preseason, has been pretty good. He looks like he might have a very good season, even if it’s just 13 games.
Winston facing a big season
This is a big season for Winston. Despite all the off-field issues, it’s impossible to believe the Buccaneers would simply move on from him in the next year or two, because NFL teams never move on from quarterbacks of Winston’s talent at his age. Still, Winston’s contract will be up after the 2019 season and no matter what has happened, Winston is a quarterback and he’s going to get paid a large contract by someone. Of course, Winston won’t get that massive deal if he plays poorly over the next two seasons.
Winston had an up-and-down season last year, and was bothered by a shoulder injury, but finished very strong. If not for the suspension, we’d wonder if that late-season surge was a sign of things to come. It won’t be easy for Winston to take three weeks off and then pick up like he never left, but all he can do now is maximize his preseason reps.
Winston is compelling, although not for the best reasons. He has become one of the NFL’s most controversial figures, and his future with the Buccaneers will became even more interesting if he carries his fantastic preseason performance into the regular season.
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