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What can Jameis Winston's statistics tell us about his debut season as the Saints starter? –

New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston reacts during minicamp in Metairie on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. 
New Orleans Saints quarterback Jameis Winston reacts during minicamp in Metairie on Wednesday, June 15, 2022. 
Jameis Winston is a polarizing player, and perhaps that’s because there are plenty of statistics available to back up opposing viewpoints on him as a player.
By some metrics, Winston was one of the better passers in his abbreviated 2021 season and by others he ranked near the bottom of the NFL.
This is lining up to be a fascinating season for Winston, who signed a two-year contract to remain with the New Orleans Saints this off-season. The Saints have assembled a talented roster around him, and their hopes might just rest upon which side of the argument is proven correct.
There are some mitigating factors for both Winston’s good and the bad numbers, as well as some interesting nuggets that may point toward what’s in store this season. So let’s try to cut through the statistical clutter and add some context where it’s necessary.
This was Winston’s touchdown-to-interception ratio, which ranked fourth among qualifying NFL quarterbacks and was easily the best mark of his career (his previous best came in 2017, when he threw 19 touchdowns to 11 interceptions).
This was Winston’s Expected Points Added (EPA) per play through eight weeks. EPA per play is an advanced metric that measures individual plays in terms of overall points added, adjusting for specific situations — a five yard pass on third and 3 carries more weight than a five-yard pass on third and 12, for instance.
This statistic is popular for a reason. Extrapolated over the course of the season, Winston would’ve finished second in this metric, right behind NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers (.257) and ahead of Patrick Mahomes (.221).
This was Winston’s completion percentage above expectation (meaning he completed about 5 % fewer passes than expected), according to NextGenStats, which ranked 35th among 38 qualifying NFL quarterbacks. Winston’s actual completion percentage (59 %) ranked 34th.
On one hand, it was encouraging to see Winston take such great care of the football in his seven starts last season. Both the percentage of his throws that resulted in touchdowns (8.7 %) and interceptions (1.9 %) were career bests by a wide margin.
It is worth wondering, though, whether some of those numbers were at all inflated by the Saints’ conservative offensive play-calling. He attempted 23 or fewer passes in four of his six full games as the Saints leaned heavily on their running game and defense.
Across the NFL, teams averaged 34.4 pass attempts per game last season — a number Winston eclipsed once, attempting 35 passes in poor conditions on the road against Seattle.
Would he be able to sustain those efficiency numbers — and, specifically, his turnover avoidance — in a more pass-centric Saints offense? That’s a question Winston is going to have to answer with his play over the course of a full season.
That said, there was a reason the Saints didn’t have Winston slinging the ball 35 times per game. The Saints’ receiver corps last season was a motley collection of former undrafted rookies and free agent castoffs.
Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harty (formerly Harris) and Tre’Quan Smith were his top three targets last season. That same group should now occupy slots 4, 5 and 6 in a revamped passing attack that now includes Michael Thomas, Jarvis Landry and Chris Olave.
Who he was throwing to likely played a role in his completion percentage — which was Winston’s personal worst since his rookie season. That shouldn’t be an issue in 2022 after the Saints made over their receiver room this off-season, giving Winston what should at least be an above-average group with the potential to be much more.
This was Winston’s average time to throw per dropback last season, according to NextGenStats. That was the second-highest mark among qualifying NFL quarterbacks, and a full quarter-second longer per snap than his final season as the starter in Tampa Bay.
The conventional wisdom might seem that more time to throw is a good thing, but that was not necessarily true for Winston last season. His numbers were significantly better when he was getting the ball out of his hands quickly.
According to Pro Football Reference, Winston had a 121.9 passer rating on his 83 attempts in which he was in the pocket for less than 2.5 seconds compared to an 82.4 passer rating on 78 attempts in which he took more than 2.5 seconds to throw.
Most striking, Winston’s completion percentage was nearly 30 points higher (72.3 %) when he was getting rid of the ball sooner than on plays in which he held onto it longer than 2.5 seconds (44.9 %).
With better receiving options this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Saints trend back toward a rhythm-based attack that allows Winston to get the ball out of his hands quickly.
Email Luke Johnson at
The New Orleans Saints announced their 2022 training camp schedule, including the 10 dates the team will make practice open to the public. 
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