Jameis Winston still has to compete with Taysom Hill for the starting quarterback job in New Orleans Saints training camp, but he’s already seizing the opportunity by working out with his teammates often throughout the spring and early summer. When asked about what messages Winston has shared in these training sessions, fourth-year pro Tre’Quan Smith was all smiles.
“Don’t stop running,” Smith told ESPN’s Mike Triplett after the Saints wrapped up their June 9 minicamp practice. If there’s nothing available underneath the coverage, Smith clarified, Winston has confidence he can strike his receivers 60 or even 70 yards downfield.
It’s a bold statement, but Winston has backed it up. He completed three passes for gains of 60-plus yards in 2019, per Pro Football Reference, including a personal-best 71-yard scoring strike to wideout Chris Godwin. Throws to that depth simply haven’t been part of New Orleans’ playbook in recent years, so it makes sense for Winston to put in extra work with his receivers to help them recalibrate.
Winston flew out Smith, Deonte Harris, and some other receivers to Miami for a recent throwing session, which his longtime photographer shared on social media. For context (and for what it’s worth, considering these are passes against air in June rather than defenders in November), NewOrleans.Football’s Nick Underhill charted just four completions by Drew Brees on the same routes at this depth over the last four years. He just didn’t have the ability to push the ball downfield in his later years, but Winston has that strength in spades.
We’ll see if Winston ultimately wins the starting gig. His ability — and eagerness — to stress defenses deep has never been under question. He’s got to show he can cut down on the turnovers as well as off-field misbehaving to earn that opportunity. It’s early, but it sure looks like he’s on the right track.