Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Is Jameis Winston taking too much punishment?: Why the hits keep coming

TAMPA

Jameis Winston is taking a lot of hits.

From fans. From the media. But mostly from defenders with bad intentions.

Winston has been hit 39 times in four games, more than any other quarterback in the NFL. Sixteen came in Sunday's 27-7 loss to the Broncos. Winston has been sacked 10 times, tied for fifth in the league.

The amount of punishment Winston has taken is not necessarily a reflection of poor offensive line play, though the pass protection needs to improve. Instead, Winston's competitive nature, his desire to extend plays when there is not one to make, has contributed to many unnecessary wallops.

"Nothing is good when you get your quarterback hit that often," offensive coordinator Todd Monken said.

Monken arrived at his weekly news conference Thursday armed with quarterback comparisons in an attempt to take a little pressure off Winston, the second-year pro who has thrown eight interceptions and lost two fumbles this season. Monken started by listing the touchdown-interception ratio of other NFC South passers through their first two seasons.

Cam Newton: 40 touchdowns, 29 interceptions.

Drew Brees: 28-31.

Matt Ryan: 38-25.

"Three pretty good quarterbacks. One is an MVP. One has been doing it for years, and Matt Ryan is leading the NFL in yards (passing)," Monken said. "Peyton Manning 52-43. Brett Favre 37-41. John Elway 25-29. It happens.

"Now, am I completely comparing (Winston) to them? No. All I'm saying is I love that kid. Man, you talk about a competitive spirit and a will to win and compete and make it every play, man, that's who you want to build your team around.

"Is he there yet? No. Are we there yet? Collectively, no. But you'd rather try to reel a guy back in than try to develop some kind of will to win or competitive spirit. That's what we have in our quarterback."

The website Pro Football Focus ranks the Bucs' offensive line 26th in the league and notes it has surrendered 60 quarterback pressures. Then again, Winston's 177 passing attempts are the most in the league.

The 1-3 Bucs trailing in three of their four games has forced Winston to pass as many as 56 times in a game.

"Definitely, when we throw in the 50s, he's going to take more hits, and the fact that Jameis is holding on to (the ball) too long in some instances," coach Dirk Koetter said. "We said many times, (in) a perfect game, we're running in the 30s and throwing in the 30s. We were on track at lot better than that in the first half (against the Broncos), but when it gets away from you after you get past two scores (down) … then it's going to be flip-flopped."

Many hits on Winston occurred late against Arizona and Denver. Koetter was criticized for leaving Winston in against the Cardinals long after the outcome had been settled in the 40-7 loss.

Complicating matters is that Winston has been blitzed on 41 percent of his drop backs, ESPN Stats and Info says. His 94 passer rating during those blitzes is fourth in the NFL.

Still, tackle Demar Dotson said he wished Winston would simply throw the ball away.

"Especially at the end of the game that last game," Dotson said. "He's just out there competing and holding on to the ball and trying to make a 20-point touchdown. You almost wish he would just say, 'Let's get out of here and live to fight another day.' But that's his tenacity, that's his will, that's who he is."

Winston said he plans to do whatever he believes will help his team win.

"I would rather take those hits and protect the football than any other thing," Winston said. "That's all that's in my mind right now. Hits? We do that every day."

   
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