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Is Jameis Winston able to take the Saints all the way?

Jameis Winston may finally find his feet in New Orleans, and live up to the immense promise that he has always possessed, if only he could harness it.

Jameis Winston may finally find his feet in New Orleans, and live up to the immense promise that he has always possessed, if only he could harness it.
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Jameis Winston gets very little respect around the NFL. As a former Heisman Trophy winner, you would think that he would have a bigger fan club in the front offices around the league. Even in New Orleans, a city that has long embraced the slow-burners, he is not exactly revered. But he should be.

The Saints won their first game of the season in traditional Saints fashion: ugly. It would perhaps be more appropriate to say that the Saints didn’t so much win as fail to lose. And while the national press will not give much love to the team from the Big Easy, life-long New Orleans fans know the routine by heart. This ain’t our first rodeo.

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Perhaps we in the media should try and change that approach. Waxing lyrical about beautiful play is all great, but it is preferable for a team to come out with an ungainly win. Naturally, the ideal is to win and look sublime doing it, and Jameis Winston showed some sublime moments against Atlanta.

Despite the scoreboard at the start of the fourth quarter, there were moments, however fleeting, in Sunday’s game when New Orleans looked Super Bowl ready. Taysom Hill did what Taysom Hill does, breaking a career-high 57-yard run in the process. Jarvis Landry slotted into the Saints system nicely, hauling in seven passes for 114 yards, while rookie Chris Olave pulled down three for 41 yards.

But the fourth quarter belonged to Winston and Michael Thomas. The pair linked up for five passes and 57 yards in the final three minutes to give the Saints a bite at the apple, a bite that they should never have had, in a game that, by rights, they had no business winning. But then, that is the Saints for you. And, if you want to get technical about it, that is also the Falcons for you.

New Orleans have a lot to improve on, their offensive line is the best example of that. All of their problems against Atlanta started with the front five. While Jameis Winston attracted attention for his recent injuries, particularly having just returned from a season-ending knee injury from last season, but no matter how poised he looked in the pocket, no matter how much vision he showed in his check-downs, if he has a great big defensive lineman in his face almost immediately, he will not be able to give the team what you need to get out of him.

Winston completed 23 of 34 for 269 yards, and while that is a pretty decent afternoon, you have to wonder what he could have done if he wasn’t constantly scrambling. Although, again, Saints fans might say that Drew Brees worked miracles under the same circumstances. So let’s get that out of the way up front.

Drew Brees left shoes that are almost impossibly large, and filling them is a daunting prospect. But fill them, we must. And Jameis Winston will have the weight of an entire city on his shoulders as he tries to live up to expectations.

Expectation has followed Jameis Winston all his life. When he won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, the youngest to ever accomplish the feat, the expectation to follow it up was overwhelming. He disappointed the following season, although he put up solid numbers and went 13-0. When Florida State lost the national championship to Oregon, he decided to enter the NFL draft and was picked up by Tampa Bay first overall.

As a rookie, Winston tied the Buccaneers franchise record with five touchdown passes in a single game and set season franchise rookie records in pass attempts, pass completions, passing yards, and passing touchdowns. He was the third rookie quarterback to pass for over 4000 yards and was the first rookie quarterback in Buccaneers’ history to be selected to the Pro Bowl. Despite all of this, the injuries that seemed to follow him in the following years saw him eventually lose his job to Tom Brady, and his time in Tampa is remembered largely as disappointing.

Brought in to backup Brees with a view to becoming his eventual replacement, Winston found himself in a battle for the QB1 job with Taysom Hill and Trevor Siemian. His road has been a constant uphill battle. He might actually be a legendary quarterback in the making, not just a good one or even a great one, but he still has to constantly prove himself. And yet, he steps up and does it, week after week.

With Dennis Allen firmly on team Jameis, the oldest “young quarterback” may have finally found a place where he can become the passer that he has always promised to be. The front office is on his side and the pieces are all in place. And New Orleans might be just the perfect city for his transformation to happen, with a fanbase that will ride along through the ups and the downs, always believing that this might be the year. All we need is an offensive line, and then maybe, just maybe…


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