Since he entered the NFL as the first overall pick in 2015, only nine quarterbacks have attempted more rushes than the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's Jameis Winston. This is no surprise, though. Dual-threat quarterbacks have become en vogue over the last few years while younger players in general often try to make plays with their feet as opposed to taking a sack or throwing an incompletion.
During his rookie campaign, Winston – not counting knee-downs – carried the football 43 times. He followed this up with a 36-carry season in 2016. And while the 6'4, 230 lbs quarterback certainly has the physical attributes to be a dangerous runner with the ball in his hands, the vast majority of his rushing attempts came on scrambles and improvisational plays in an attempt to make something out of nothing.
Fast forward to 2017 and things look different: So far this season, Winston has only carried the football four times; never on a scripted play. The 23-year old has shown improved poise in the pocket and appears more willing to let routes develop and his receivers get open – a different approach when compared to his first two seasons in the NFL as he often was quick to start heading upfield to gain yardage on his own.
Of course, despite Winston's development into a pure pocket passer, his athleticism and scrambling abilities cannot be underestimated. The New England Patriots' defense, therefore, has to be on high alert tonight to avoid a performance like the one it delivered against the Houston Texans' Deshaun Watson two weeks ago: The rookie was consistently able to keep plays alive by shedding would-be sacks and tackles.
However, overall, Winston does not appear to be the same threat on the ground as Watson turned out to be. After all, his stlye of play this season has looked more traditional than in years past – more like Tom Brady's approach to playing quarterback then Deshaun Watson's: Winston only turns to the scramble when it looks like the best decision to make.
It would in turn not be a surprise to see the Patriots' defense attack Tampa Bay's passing game more aggressively – playing more press-man than off or zone coverage, using more blitzes – without consistently having to worry about stopping a run on a broken play. New England used the same approach in week two against the New Orleans Saints, a game that was the unit's most successful so far this season.