Can Jameis Winston really be better? If so, will it show up in the statistics? On what aspect of his game must Winston work the most?
Evenflow58: Not only can Winston be better, I firmly believe he will be while, statistically speaking, he'll be worse. Last year's offense could attack a defense no matter what they wanted to take away. With an off-season to watch film of the reigning Heisman winner and a backfield lacking in starts, you have to believe teams will try and prevent FSU from throwing the ball. Combine that with a receiving corps less experienced than last year's version and it'd be no surprise to see Winston with worse stats than last year. I believe Winston will do a better job of checking in and out of plays and protections at the line.
FSU: I don't think Winston's number will improve significantly (One caveat, Winston should play longer and therefore have more opportunities to put up stats). However, I do believe the offense as a whole may be even more efficient than last year's devastating group in a large part of the due to experience and size on the offensive line.
jmnpb996: One issue caused by Jameis' mechanical flaws has been his tendency to "sail" passes high. I'm not a good eye for QB mechanics, but I've noticed a dropping/low elbow appears to be a common trend in many of the passes he sails high. Others have mentioned base and other mechanical flaws as causing this issue. What other mechanical factors contribute to Jameis sailing passes?
Florida State season preview
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Alan Mundy: Definitely have to echo Evan's thoughts here. Jameis has many areas where he can and will improve, but the personnel changes on offense lend themselves to a different style of play that will not yield the same absurd numbers as 2013 did.
As for the second question, I had some thoughts I've been looking to put down in response to some of the "scouting reports" that have been posted on Jameis lately.
In terms of technique, the biggest opportunity for Jameis to improve exists in his footwork, specifically in his drops from under center. Somewhere around midseason last year I noticed that Jimbo had called remarkably few straight drop back passes, as opposed to play action, from under center. I speculated in private at that point that Jimbo was compensating for a weakness in Winston's game and the season bore this out. A proper drop back should see the quarterback driving away from the line of scrimmage off his plant foot and crossing over. Jameis frequently hops backwards, failing to cross over and while he does a sufficient job of getting away from the line of scrimmage, there is no rhythm to it and he is not adequately prepared to throw on each step as he should be. West Coast derived passing offenses tie a quarterbacks reads to the various stages of the drop back. At the 3rd step you're on your first read, three steps and a hitch should be the second read, three steps and two hitches should be the third read, etc. While the same theories are applied to snaps taken from the shotgun, there is a lot more wiggle room. NFL coaches and scouts will definitely be looking for major improvements in this area of his game.
Much has been said about Winston's tendency to wind up at times, far too much in my opinion. The primary drawback to a windup motion is that it lengthens the time interval between the quarterback making a decision and the ball arriving, potentially resulting in late throws and DBs beating the receiver to the spot. Simple observation of Winston's play reveals that this is not a significant issue for Jameis. Does he wind up? Yes, sometimes. However, he does it so fast that it doesn't represent a significant limiting factor in his game. His release could be quicker if he held the ball higher and Jameis has indicated this is something he will be working on, but with that being said his release as it exists currently is not slow by any reasonable standard. Looking at Winston's interceptions it is clear that the vast majority of them come from inaccurate throws, not DBs jumping routes. Comparisons to other QBs who wind up very slowly like Tebow (whose release could be timed with a sun dial) are completely out of order. A better comparison would be Byron Leftwich, who did have an elongated motion but not necessarily a slow release.
A more serious issue that Jameis must correct is his base. Viewing a quarterback from the side when he is standing prepared to throw, his feet should be shoulder width or slightly wider apart. The quarterback needs to be able to step into the throw, transfer his weight onto the front leg and torque his torso around into the throw all while maintaining his balance. If the front foot is too far forward, his weight is behind the front foot instead of directly over it. This robs the throw of power and can lead to throws missing high, which is precisely where Jameis tends to miss. Generally speaking this situation occurs when a quarterback "over strides" by stepping too far forward with the front foot. Jameis doesn't overstride, but his base (the distance from his front foot to back foot when viewed from the side) is much too wide to begin with, which yields the same results. It's my feeling that this is actually a side effect of his footwork. Once his drop back is corrected so that he is crossing over properly, his base will naturally tighten up.
The other major mechanical issue I would address with Jameis if I were his QB coach is the rocking horse motion of his torso. This is a classic pitching motion, but inappropriate for a quarterback. If you were to draw a line down a quarterback's spine and through his hips, that line should remain roughly straight and perpendicular to the ground throughout the throwing motion. This keeps the weight distributed over the base of support. When Jameis throws he often leans back to start the motion and then leans forward through the throw, ending up with his shoulders in front of his hips. This rocking horse motion affects the release point and can again lead to missing high (or low).
The key to any mechanical changes is that they must be done in such a way that they do not cause Jameis to start focusing on the process of throwing the ball in game situations. Winston's greatest strength as a quarterback is his knowledge of the game, ability to process information quickly and see plays developing in advance. His accuracy and ball placement are significant plusses so care has to be taken to make sure that the cure is not worse than the disease.
ricobert1: What Alan said.
Bud Elliott: Alan, absolutely. I'd add that his anticipation really helps make up for the long delivery. I think Winston's vision, anticipation and hand talent (ability to shape passes with the right amount of touch and velocity) are his best attributes.
I really like that Winston wants to take the big play whenever it i there, but I also think he may have to dial it back a bit this year if the receivers aren't as open as they were in 2013, or if they aren't making the same sort of plays. If he does, that'll be evidence of improved on-field maturity.