Only three quarterbacks had a higher percentage of their passes intercepted last year than Jameis Winston, who threw 18 picks in his 567 throws (3.2 percent). By pure totals, those 18 interceptions were only behind the 21 thrown by Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.
Compare Winston’s turnover numbers to Matt Ryan’s last year (seven interceptions in 534 passes, 1.3 percent), and the point is: The Bears’ defense should have more opportunities for takeaways in Week 2 than they did in Week 1. But can a defense that only had eight interceptions last year convert them?
“Jameis is a guy who believes in his arm, he believes in his receivers,” linebacker Sam Acho said. “He's going to throw into double coverage, he's going to make some throws that we're going to have opportunities to pick off. We have to take advantage of those opportunities. He's going to be in the pocket, he's going to be staying in the pocket, so we have to get after him, try and force a fumble on him and try and change the game.”
Winston’s risk-taking comes an ability to make explosive plays, which was on full display last year when the Bears picked off the former No. 1 overall pick once (by Harold Jones-Quartey) and sacked him four times — and still lost, 36-10. Still, the Bucs are 8-12 when Winston throws an interception and 7-5 when he doesn’t. And when Winston throws two interceptions, Tampa Bay is 1-7.
“Every interception has a story to it and I would expect those interceptions will come down for him in Year 3,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans pointed to Winston’s risk-taking as an area in which he might improve this year, too. If he can, he could finish the 2017 season as a top 10 quarterback.
But much like the Bears’ defense needing to prove its takeaway drought will end, Winston needs to prove his propensity for turnovers is a thing of the past, too. One of those two narratives will change — or at least start to change — on Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.