SAN DIEGO-Jameis Winston doesn’t have the turbo skates that Michael Vick used to have. He just gets the job done. Winston is not the chiseled Statue of Liberty Superman that Cam Newton has become. He just wants to win.
Winston doesn’t even have the skateboard, get-out-of-the pocket running ability of a Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers.
What Winston do have is this thing called escapability. As a quarterback, this is an attribute that you either have or you don’t have. And if you don’t have it, you’re not going to last too long behind center.
Winston has become pretty good at this moving around the pocket thing. He dances around in the pocket as if he has taken more than a few lessons in synchronized ballet.
To quote or unquote Muhammad Ali, Winston has perfected the art of “stinging defenses and floating like a butterfly” with all that tap-dancing he does as he typically dodges defenders much same the way a hummingbird gets ghost whenever a threat approaches.
Joey Bosa and the San Diego Chargers received their own personal tour to Winston’s routine Houdini act Sunday afternoon at Qualcomm Stadium. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for Bosa or the Chargers. On more than a couple of occasions, Bosa came up with a handful of empty air and plenty of turf residue from the slippery Winston.
Bosa, looking flustered in the Chargers’ locker room, acknowledged that getting Winston on the ground is pretty difficult.
“Really tough,” Bosa said. “Anyone who watched (the game) can see that.”
As a result of the Chargers not being able to pin down Winston when it counted, the Buccaneers came away with a 28-21 road win and a Wildcard spot in the playoff chase with their 7-5 record (tied for first place in NFC South). That’s a tad bit better than the 6-10 season mark that they recorded last season during Winston’s rookie year.
“We just stuck together as a family,” Winston said after the game. “First, we have to give all of the glory to God. He blesses us out there. That pick six (interception return) by DaVonte (Lambert) was truly a blessing. He’s playing well.”
Winston’s nimble feet and his innate ability to read defenses well are the key reasons why he’s been successful. He’s not the fastest guy on the field. You won’t be seeing Winston trying to sign up to run the 100 meters at a track meet. But what he’ll do is get a good feel of the harm around him, and slide left, maybe slide back to the right and then scramble out of danger just long enough to complete a pass to one of his receivers.
Winston burned the Chargers a couple of times with these quarterback maneuvers. None of this was more evident than on Tampa Bay’s game-winning drive early in the fourth quarter. With the Buccaneers down, 21-20, Winston kind of shuffled his feet a couple of times before completing a 12-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Brate.
That gave Tampa Bay the lead for good. But the ensuing two-point conversion by Winston and the Buccaneers was something. Looking he was about to go down in the hands of Bosa, Winston shook off the Chargers rookie like a fly being swatted, and completed the play to extend the Buccaneers’ lead to seven points, an advantage they would not relinquish thanks in large part to a late-game interception by Keith Tandy in the endzone.
“That’s the one thing that coach (Dirk) Koetter and (quarterback) coach (Mike) Bajakian have been emphasizing…finishing,” Winston said. “I believe we did a good job with that. Thanks to the defense, they finished strong and came up with a great turnover for us. The offensive line, they’ve been playing well and year, and that continued today.”
That’s typical of Winston. During his Heisman Trophy heyday, Winston made plays to Brate and the two-point conversion on a routine basis. As a rookie, Winston played impressively, completing 58 percent of his passes, while throwing for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns.
Now in his sophomore campaign, Winston has a gotten a lot better in his disappearing act. So far, for the season, Winston is ranked 11th in the passing department with 3,180 yards and 23 touchdowns on the season. Oh yeah, Winston is doing all of this while completing nearly 62 percent of his passes.
Tampa Bay wide receiver Mike Evans said Winston’s known leadership qualities in college is on par of what he is doing now as a pro.
“It is the exact same,” Evans said. “To be such a young guy, he is one of the best leaders that I have been around. He is very vocal. He just wants the best for his teammates and we love playing for a guy like that.”
Playing in the NFC South Conference, a conference where Cam Newton, Matt Ryan, and Drew Brees try to wrestle threshold of superiority from one another, Wnston, as well as the young Buccaneers squad, are on the come up.
Against the Chargers, Winston and Tampa Bay showed why. Producing a relative modest afternoon in completing 20 of 30 passes for 280 yards and one touchdown, Winston showcased his powerful right arm and pocket footwork when the Buccaneers needed him to.
After throwing a disastrous first quarter interception, Winston settled down and made the right plays going forward in order for Tampa Bay to move the ball the rest of the game against one of the league’s top defenses.
“I believe we could have performed better but San Diego has one of the top defenses in the NFL,” Winston said.”I think some people overlook that because of the losses that they have…but don’t look at their record. That’s a pretty great football team with a Hall of Fame quarterback (Philip Rivers) and a Hall of Fame tight end (Antonio Gates).
“And Joey Bosa, wow! He’s a monster; him and Melvin Ingram on that edge. People always overlook that middle linebacker spot; Denzel Perryman, he is a havoc out there. They have a great team. We just got the better of them today.”