Comparing Jameis Winston’s performance from Week 1 to Week 2

Jameis Winston started the season strong, but his stats fell in Week 2. Let's look at what changed for him between the first two weeks.

Jameis Winston’s tenure as the New Orleans Saints started strong with excellent stats against the Green Bay Packers. However, he fell back down to earth last weekend. Let’s look at how Winston’s performance changed between the first two weeks of the 2021 NFL season.

Winston’s stats in Week 1 and 2 have been out of character for him

Jameis Winston’s Week 1 stat line was strange, especially for him. He has a reputation for launching the ball downfield. But against Green Bay, he only threw for 148 yards. Despite that, he managed to throw 5 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. In total, 25% of his pass attempts resulted in touchdowns, and the Saints crushed the Packers by a score of 38-3.

It is difficult to complain about a lack of yards when your team has so much success.

Unfortunately, Winston and New Orleans couldn’t keep their momentum going in Week 2. In a 26-7 defeat to the Carolina Panthers, Winston threw for just 111 yards, 0 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions.

One could argue that it was the least effective performance of his entire career. While there have been plenty of games in which Winston underperformed (he has had multiple 4-interception games throughout his career), rarely has he been so unimpactful.

He has only thrown for fewer yards on a few occasions: several times last season when he entered the game in relief of Drew Brees and during a pair of games in 2017 when Ryan Fitzpatrick replaced him. In other words, all games in which he didn’t play the entire time.

Clearly, Winston looks like a completely different player, for better and for worse.

The advanced metrics suggest that Week 2 might have been the worst game of his career

For a closer look at Winston’s passing performances, let’s turn to the Offensive Value Metric (OVM). The OVM is a grading system created by the (Bx) Movement to evaluate players based on how much they contributed to the statistics they earned, rather than the statistics themselves.

In Week 1, Winston earned a decent grade (30.38). Unfortunately, his performance fell off of a cliff in Week 2. Winston’s grade dropped to just 6.12, the lowest of his entire career.

Put simply, Winston’s OVM grades agree with what the traditional statistics tell us. In Week 1, he was fairly effective despite his relatively limited production. Yet, against the Panthers, everything fell apart.

Examining the advanced stats behind Winston’s OVM grades

To explain why Winston’s first two OVM grades of 2021 are so different, we need to explore the advanced metrics involved in creating them.

In Week 1, 10% of Wintson’s pass attempts were thrown into tight windows. That’s extremely low, but he completed his passes at a surprisingly high rate. His 70% completion percentage doesn’t look particularly impressive, but NFL’s projections suggest that it was 5.1% higher than it should have been.

Last week, Winston threw into tight windows approximately the same percentage of the time, at 9.1%. However, his completion statistics plummeted. The NFL’s projections suggest that he should have completed 63.9% of his attempts, but, in reality, he only completed 50% of them, the third-worst rate of last weekend.

Doing the math, that makes his actual completion percentage 13.9% lower than expected, the second-worst differential in the NFL.

Comparing Winston’s OVM performance so far in 2021 to how he played in 2019

To put Winston’s recent grades into context, let’s look back at how he played in 2019 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The chart below shows his weekly grades from that season, marked by the black dots. For comparison, the yellow line represents the regular season average grade for quarterbacks from 2019.

Comparing Jameis Winston's performance from Week 1 to Week 2

As you can see, the vast majority of Winston’s grades were above the league average, often by a wide margin. His best grade, a 51.2-point performance in Week 3, was the fifth-highest grade earned by a quarterback all season.

Interestingly, Winston’s 2019 success isn’t an outlier. Throughout his career, Winston has consistently been one of the NFL’s highest-graded quarterbacks. He earned a top-five overall grade among all quarterbacks from 2017 to 2019.

Based on that data, it’s clear that Winston, while not always a great quarterback, has always been a high-impact player. That wasn’t the case in Week 2.

Which Winston will we see next Sunday?

We are still in the early stages of the Saints’ Jameis Winston experiment. So far, the results have been polar opposites — a brilliant opening game followed by a rough second week.

Fortunately, one bad game does not make a season, and Sean Payton is an excellent head coach. We’ll see if he can help Winston rebound in Week 3.

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