Jameis Winston has 3,422 passing yards, already the seventh-most in NFL history for a rookie and he's on pace to finish with more yards than any rookie not named Andrew Luck or Cam Newton. Winston has a 20-12 TD-INT ratio, the fourth-lowest interception rate in the NFL since Week Five and five rushing touchdowns to boot.
Of course, Jameis Winston also has plenty of room for improvement before he graduates to Pro Bowl quarterback or, more importantly, playoff quarterback. The good news for his Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that Winston has shown a remarkable ability to identify, accept and eliminate problems in his game. The most notable example is in his interception totals, but Winston has also successfully worked on being safer while running, making decisions in the red zone and taking a larger leadership role.
"Jameis is a first-year player, he's still not a finished product," said Head Coach Lovie Smith. "No rookie is a finished product yet. What I've seen from Jameis Winston is things that aren't exactly what we would like for it to be, bring it to his attention and it's eliminated. We won't have to deal with that anymore."
This might, in fact, be his single most impressive trait so far, and with two weeks left to play, he still has time to work on one issue: Controlling his emotions in the moment.
It should be noted that there is nothing in Winston's overall performance this season that strikes Smith as particularly problematic.
"It wouldn't be any easier to ask, 'Okay, Lovie, what don't you like about what he's doing?'" said Smith of Winston. "Just like I am right now, I can't say anything that I don't like about him. His whole makeup, on the field and off the field. It's safe to say I buy into Jameis Winston. We all do."
Still, the issue above is the result of several instances in last Thursday's loss to the Rams in which Winston didn't agree with a game official's decision and spent too much time making his feelings heard. This hasn't exactly been a season-long concern with Winston, but it did bother Offensive Coordinator Dirk Koetter in St. Louis because it interfered with his attempts to get the next play in to his young quarterback.
"I thought there were times in that game where Jameis got a little bit out of control," said Koetter. "The thing I talked to Jameis about is, Jameis is the guy that should be keeping his cool no matter what happens on the field. I thought there were a few times that we had more than just one player, more than just Jameis too worried about the officials and not worried enough about playing or too worried about talking to the opponents and not worrying about playing. None of that is going to help us win."
Photos of the Bears' starters via team depth chart.
Again, the encouraging thing for the Buccaneers is that Winston has no problem hearing this from his coach and sets to work immediately correcting it. The rookie passer talked openly about the topic with the local media on Wednesday.
"I apologized to the team, because it's not really emotion and passion," said Winston. "That has nothing to do with the play. It's just when you are doing that, it takes away from the actually game plan and I have to stop that. I can't be arguing with the referees and Dirk [Koetter] calling the play. That's something that I will learn, but that game was just a big game, I didn't want anybody to take away from us and that's all."
And, of course, in the end the Buccaneers want Winston to bring his obvious passion to the game. They want to see him control it, not eliminate it.
"I think passion is great," said Koetter. "I think passion by any player is fantastic, but whatever emotion, and passion being one of those, that a player has on display, as long as it's not affecting his play or the play or the other players I think it's great. One thing about Jameis is I don't think Jameis has ever faked emotion. I think whatever you see from Jameis, from what I've seen, has always been real."