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Fewer Jameis Winston interceptions in 2019? Don’t count on it.

The Buccaneers quarterback has shown no signs of reducing his rate of high-risk throws.
[PHELAN M. EBENHACK | Associated Press]
Published Jun. 20
Updated Jun. 20

Jameis Winston has been an interception machine.

Four seasons into his NFL career, how could you claim otherwise? Since 2015, his 58 interceptions are second to only Ben Roethlisberger’s 59 (Roethlisberger, though, has thrown 24 more touchdown passes). His 3.0 percent interception rate is second to only Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 3.4 (minimum 1,000 passes). He has thrown multiple interceptions in 16 games, tied with Blake Bortles for most in the league.

Most troubling is that Winston took a step back last season, throwing 14 interceptions in 11 games.

And it could have been worse.

A recent Football Outsiders analysis found that he was lucky. He should have thrown 19.

How did they come up with that? They started with Winston’s actual interception total (14). Then they added the passes that defenders dropped (six). Finally, they subtracted interceptions that were tipped by receivers to defenders (none) as well as interceptions that were late-game desperation throws (one). They call the sum “adjusted interceptions.”

[ RELATED: Who is Jameis Winston? We still don’t know. ]

Dismiss it as hocus pocus if you wish, but if you’re interested in peeking into the future, you might want to pay attention. It turns out that adjusted interceptions are a better predictor of future interceptions than actual interceptions.

Case in point: In 2017, Winston threw 11 interceptions and posted a career-low rate of 2.5 percent. Based on that alone, one might have wondered whether Winston had turned a corner. Football Outsiders warned us. They found that Winston should have thrown 19 interceptions, which would have put his rate above 4 percent. His actual rate in 2018: a career-high 3.7 percent.

Another example: In 2017, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan’s interception total increased from seven to 12. Five of those, however, should have been caught by his receivers. What happened in 2018? Luck swung in his favor. His interception total fell back to seven, though he benefited from five drops.

Let’s tackle a few potential excuses for Winston.

• The offensive line: It was inconsistent, but it wasn’t an insurmountable liability. Bucs quarterbacks were under pressure on 31.4 percent of pass plays, the 15th-highest rate, according to Sports Info Solutions. Besides, Winston was relatively successful when under pressure. His 84.9 passer rating in such situations ranked sixth (minimum 200 dropbacks), according to Pro Football Focus. His 92.0 passer rating when not under pressure ranked 32nd.

• What about drops? Bucs receivers were fairly reliable last season. Their 4.6 percent drop rate was seventh best, according to Pro Football Focus.

• The lack of a run game and a defense: Neither of those things caused Winston to underthrow DeSean Jackson or force the ball to a well-covered Adam Humphries.

[ MORE BUCS: Gerald McCoy: The Bucs didn’t give me the respect I deserved ]

B.A. will fix him, you say? Maybe, but Carson Palmer’s adjusted interception history under Bruce Arians is cause for at least mild concern. In 2013, Palmer threw 22 actual interceptions vs. 26 adjusted interceptions. In an injury-shortened 2014, three vs. five. In 2015, 11 vs. 18. In 2016, 14 vs. 21. In 2017, seven vs. 14. Those numbers tell us that Palmer continued to throw interceptable passes but had a run of good fortune.

Granted, there is a small degree of subjectivity in determining what counts as an adjusted interception. We don’t know the play calls or whether receivers ran their routes correctly. However, the six Winston passes that defenders dropped last season are pretty clear cut examples. Watch for yourself:

• • •

Game: Week 6 vs. Falcons, Oct. 14

Situation: Second and 8 from the Atlanta 15-yard line, 11:47 left in the first quarter, score tied 0-0

Target: DeSean Jackson

Defender who dropped interception: Robert Alford

[NFL Game Pass]

An absolute misfire. Jackson is open, but Winston’s pass is short and behind him.

• • •

Game: Week 8 vs. Bengals, Oct. 28

Situation: Third and 4 from the Cincinnati 38, 9:33 left in the first quarter, score tied 0-0

Target: Adam Humphries

Defender who dropped interception: Shawn Williams

[NFL Game Pass]

Winston eyes running back Ronald Jones in the flat but looks elsewhere when he sees safety Jessie Bates pick him up. He does well to avoid some late pressure and find Humphries. He throws a floater, though, giving Williams time to cut in front.

• • •

Game: Week 8 vs. Bengals, Oct. 28

Situation: First and 10 from the Cincinnati 47, 1:09 left in the second quarter, Bengals lead 27-6

Target: Adam Humphries

Defender who dropped interception: Darius Phillips

[NFL Game Pass]

A reckless throw into traffic. “I don’t understand what he sees from time to time,” Fox analyst Daryl Johnston says.

• • •

Game: Week 11 vs. Giants, Nov. 18

Situation: First and 10 from the Tampa Bay 30, 7:33 left in the fourth quarter, Giants lead 31-21

Target: Adam Humphries

Defenders who dropped interception: B.W. Webb and Grant Haley

[NFL Game Pass]

Last month, quarterbacks coach Clyde Christensen said the staff broke down every interception Winston has thrown and found that inaccuracy was to blame more so than decision-making. “That’s easier to fix,” he said. “Judgment, throwing balls up for grabs and doing those things, that’s harder to fix.”

Well, here’s yet another example of bad decision-making. There are two Giants in position to contest the pass to Humphries. Worse, Mike Evans is open right in front of Winston and has room to run.

• • •

Game: Week 11 vs. Giants, Nov. 18

Situation: First and 10 from the New York 45, 6:56 left in the fourth quarter, Giants lead 31-21

Target: Adam Humphries

Defenders who dropped interception: Josh Mauro and Tae Davis

[NFL Game Pass]

An inaccurate throw here, as Humphries needs to reach back to get his hands on the ball. If the pass is in front of him, the defender can’t get to it.

• • •

Game: Week 16 vs. Cowboys, Dec. 23

Situation: First and 10 from the Tampa Bay 34, 4:20 left in the fourth quarter, Cowboys lead 27-13

Target: DeSean Jackson

Defender who dropped interception: Jeff Heath

[NFL Game Pass]

Only one of Winston’s 10 deep passes to Jackson last season were accurate/catchable. This isn’t that one. Jackson is wide open, but Winston underthrows him. A better throw gives Jackson a chance of scoring a touchdown.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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