Jameis Winston is embarking on the biggest summer of his career. The experienced quarterback will report to the New Orleans Saints training camp on July 26th, with the 28-year-old quarterback hoping to become the ‘guy’ in New Orleans. Now that Sean Payton and Drew Brees have exited the dome, Winston must embrace the pressure and become the man.
But is Winston capable? If one were to form an answer using Winston’s six-year resumè, it’d be an emphatic no. But the Saints were 5-2 before Winston got injured last season. You don’t get drafted 1st overall without skill. Winston’s talent is undeniable. Now it’s up to Winston and the Saints coaches to formulate a plan for success in the NFL.
Why Winston Can be The Guy
It is easy to forget that the Saints held a 5-2 record in 2021 before Winston’s season-ending injury. Winston had thrown 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions. In a small sample size, Winston demonstrated that he could look after the ball and manage the game.
Winston joined the Saints in 2020 and backed up Drew Brees and Taysom Hill. The time on the sidelines allowed Winston to rework his game and learn the extensive offensive playbook. Sean Payton took a chance on Winston in 2020, and the ex-Buccaneer would quickly understand the ‘Payton Way.’ Coach Payton had a list of instructions for all quarterbacks he acquired, two of these commandments were ‘throwing the ball away isn’t a bad play’ and ‘the quarterback must be the ultimate game-manager.’ Payton’s tutelage undoubtedly helped Winston become more settled, despite the Saints lacking elite pass-catchers in 2021.
That will change in 2022. Star wideout Michael Thomas is back from injury, and new additions Chris Olave and Jarvis Landry join Thomas in a rebuilt wide receiver room. The talent level in the receiver room should help Winston extract more performance. Add a talented wideout room to an offensive line that ranked 7th in pass-block success, and the raw tools are there for Winston.
Furthermore, news from the Saints facility suggests that Olave and Winston are developing a healthy relationship. Winston raved about Olave at Saints minicamp in June; the quarterback said, “He can get in and out of breaks very well. Electric and smart, man. He’s a guy that’s always asking questions. He’s a guy who wants to know how you want it, and I respect that.”
Lastly, the coaching side is stable. Veteran offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael is back in New Orleans for his 17th consecutive season. Carmichael was one of Sean Payton’s most trusted lieutenants. His presence should minimize any effects felt by Payton’s departure. Keeping the offensive verbiage, playbook and concepts the same will help Winston tremendously. Expect to see classic staples of the Saints offence with plenty of pre-snap motion, heavy sets, offset formations, and route concepts that attack the field’s short, intermediate and deep areas. Saints insiders marvelled at Drew Brees’ ability to compute so many elements of offensive play. Winston is ready to do the same in year three as a Saint.
What Could Stop Winston?
The most significant barrier to success for Winston is himself. With the Saints now boasting a legitimate wide receiver corps, expect the shot plays to return to the playbook. The Saints will try to push the ball downfield and stretch defences. That could undo Winston’s newfound composure.
It ended Winston’s time in Tampa Bay, as Bruce Arians’ aggressive offence saw Winston take shots downfield and increase his interception total. Winston threw for 5,109 yards in 2019. It was the highest of his career. However, Winston threw 30 interceptions as he displayed poor anticipation, bad decision-making, and a lack of field awareness.
Winston’s intended air-yards total was 10.4 in 2019. That number dropped to 8.3 in 2020, albeit a smaller sample size. Turnovers destroy teams, especially a team with a top-ten defence. The Saints’ formula for winning in 2022 is to play tough defence and efficient offence. If Winston gets sloppy and makes mistakes on offence, the Saints’ plans will rapidly unravel.
The Hard Work Begins Soon
It is a make-or-break year for Winston. The excuses are gone, and he has plenty of factors for success. The hard work to become the ‘guy’ in New Orleans starts soon. The Saints report to training camp on July 26th, and Winston must hit the ground running.
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