Is Jameis Winston really in a sophomore slump?

 With the Buccaneers struggling as of late, there has been a lot of talk about whether Jameis Winston is mired in a sophomore slump. Is that the case? Or is it possible that he’s the same player he was last season?

Trying to identify the exact type of season that Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston is having in 2016 is not easy. Winston has been true to character in a way, in that he’s been so hot and cold. In week one he lit the world on fire and beat Atlanta, but in week two he crashed down to Earth and threw four interceptions in a loss to Arizona.

Much of the six proceeding games were similarly hot and cold, but with arguably more cold. Particularly after the Broncos game it really began to feel as if the sophomore slump was under way. His accuracy has continued to be inconsistent as well as his ability to see the field and find the easy throw. He can nail the hard throws but will sail too many of the easy ones or not see them at all.

The evidence seems to suggest that Winston hasn’t really progressed in many areas from last season, with the exception of his conditioning and the natural experience he’s gained. Does that mean that he’s slumping, however? Not necessarily. Winston is pretty much the same player today that he was when last season ended in Carolina. He is capable of shredding the likes of the 49ers and Rams, he’s still not quite ready for the Broncos or Cardinals.

Many of Winston’s tendencies remain the same, including his gun-slinging nature and propensity for trying to compensate for his teammates too often.

While Winston hasn’t taken the giant step forward that many expected, it’s also difficult to say that he’s gotten worse as a player. Winston is on pace to throw for more touchdowns and more yards than he did last season, though his turnovers will likely be higher as well by a bit. Winston has also substantially strengthened his chemistry with Mike Evans and has hit on many of the plays that they just barely missed out on last season. Over the last four games Winston has managed to cut down his interceptions, only throwing one in that span. Coach Koetter discussed what’s behind the improvement briefly in his Monday press conference:

 “He’s going through his progressions better. He’s seeing the defense, going through his progressions better and taking what the defense gives him. He’s doing a good job of that.”

So what has managed to pause Winston’s development? Typically these things can be chalked up to the player not working hard enough to stay ahead of the curve, but we know that isn’t the case with Winston. Instead it’s more likely that he’s still in a developmental period, which shouldn’t be a surprise for a 22 year old part way through their second season.

Aside from Winston’s natural development, some blame for the stagnation has to go to the Bucs, who banked on receivers that didn’t work out and failed to add any dynamic play makers to the offense. Combine that with the injury to Doug Martin, increased struggles from the offensive tackles, and you get a worse version of last years’ offense.

Jameis Winston not regressing is a small victory for the Bucs, given that the circumstances could have dragged down his play a lot more than they have. Year three will be a different story, however. Winston will need to display real, effective improvement in his game, and the road to achieving that starts with the Bucs making the right moves this off-season. They need to find athletic players that Winston can trust will turn short passes into huge gains. The rest of the responsibility lies with Jameis Winston who has to continue “getting better each and every day” as he so often says.

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