BOCA RATON, Fla. -- Coach Dirk Koetter happened to look out his office window early one morning last week and saw a lone figure on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' practice field.
It was just after the switch to daylight savings time, so Koetter needed a moment before he recognized that it was quarterback Jameis Winston.
“[It’s] 7:30 in the morning, barely getting light, and there’s Jameis out there pulling a parachute running sprints,” Koetter said. “A work ethic is never going to be a problem with that guy.”
Winston clearly isn’t sitting on one of the best seasons by a rookie quarterback in NFL history. The 2013 Heisman Trophy winner is using his first professional offseason to change his body, get stronger, improve his footwork, become a more accurate passer, and be better at throwing the deep ball.
That’s a pretty long list but it’s all geared toward one goal: more victories in 2016.
“For Jameis [in] year two there won’t be the unknowns of, ‘OK, what are OTAs? What is training camp? What are the preseason games like?’” Koetter said. “[Winston doesn’t have to adjust to] how long the season is, how sore his body is after a game.
“I think him knowing what to expect, the preparation, the weekly schedule, we have a long list of things we want him to work on and he’s already started that on his own, but the benchmark is there’s not a three-year plan or a five-year plan. We’re trying to get better right now. We’ve got to win games.”
Winston has already begun changing his body and trying to get stronger, a revelation that Koetter said came about while Winston was at the Pro Bowl. Koetter said Winston and his agents hired a personal trainer and brought him to the Bucs’ facility and weight room. Winston also is continuing to work with the team nutritionist with the emphasis on eating healthy and not necessarily to lose weight.
“When Jameis got back from Pro Bowl the first thing he told me is how impressed he was with Russell Wilson and Julio Jones, how they looked physically,” Koetter said. “He said to me, ‘I need to change my body.’”
Koetter said Winston also is working on his footwork as well as organizing throwing sessions with receivers at the Bucs’ facility and off-site. One of the main things they’re working on is getting better at the deep ball. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Winston’s completion percentage (24.0) on throws that traveled 30 or more yards in the air ranked 30th among NFL quarterbacks.
He completed only two of his seven pass attempts of 40 or more yards.
“We need to be more consistent throwing and catching the deep ball,” Koetter said. “... How many balls deep down the sideline do you see that are either out of bounds or 5 yards overthrown? Our term for that is give ‘em a chance. Give ‘em a chance.
“If we’re going to go to all the trouble to call it, to protect it, to get back there, then all it gets down to is we’ve got to hit this spot and give Mike Evans a chance.”
With all the improvements Winston is trying to make this offseason, it reads as if he had a disastrous rookie season. That certainly wasn’t the case. Winston completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 4,042 yards and 22 touchdowns with 15 interceptions, making him just the third rookie quarterback to surpass 4,000 yards. Cam Newton did it in 2011 and Andrew Luck did it in 2012.
Winston also had the Bucs in the playoff hunt at 6-6 before a four-game losing streak to end the season.
“Jameis knows what he needs to work on,” Koetter said. “That kid’s constantly asking what he can do to get better.”