The Jameis Winston era has officially begun in New Orleans.
To a certain extent, at least. Winston hasn’t wrestled the starting job away from Drew Brees just yet, but the former No. 1 overall pick officially took the field in a red practice jersey for the first time on August 17.
If the early reports out of Louisiana are a sign of things to come, then Winston is already making his case to replace Brees as the New Orleans Saints‘ starting quarterback.
Jameis Winston signed with the Saints this offseason
The best word to describe Jameis Winston’s five years in Tampa Bay is “inconsistent.”
Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in 2015, wasn’t a traditional bust. At times, Winston showed the makings of an elite quarterback and nearly led Tampa Bay to the playoffs in 2016.
Ultimately, Winston’s bad habits — both on and off the field — cost him a future in Tampa Bay. From the interceptions to a three-game suspension following an incident with an Uber driver, a divorce between Winston and the Buccaneers made sense.
Enter the rival New Orleans Saints. Drew Brees is still going strong at age 41, but he won’t be around forever.
New Orleans allowed veteran quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to sign with the Carolina Panthers in free agency. Now, Winston and Taysom Hill, officially a quarterback but more of a gadget player, are competing for the backup spot behind Brees — and, potentially, the chance to be the heir apparent.
Winston is already impressing Drew Brees and the Saints
The coronavirus pandemic and a revamped NFL offseason schedule kept Jameis Winston and teammates from participating in padded practices until August 17. Winston made the most of his first true day with a new team.
Winston, who signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million with New Orleans in the offseason, earned rave reviews from teammates and coaches.
“If he does get a chance — you know he’s going to shine,” All-Pro defensive end Cameron Jordan said, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Head coach Sean Payton, who had to gameplan against Winston for years, called himself “pleased” with his new quarterback.
“He’s in great shape, he’s got a real live arm,” Payton told reporters. “I love his attitude and his work ethic. He’s doing very well.”
Winston lost six of his nine matchups against the Saints in five years. He completed 57.5% of his passes for 2,010 yards, 11 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions in those games.
The highest praise, though, came from Drew Brees himself.
“He loves football, he loves the game, he loves to compete. Great personality, very likable guy, he wants to learn. So, man, all those things are the first components that you kind of see and recognize.”
Winston did not speak to reporters on August 17. Media members no longer have open-locker room access; they only meet with select coaches and players virtually.
Should Jameis Winston truly be considered Drew Brees’ heir?
Drew Brees can afford to praise Jameis Winston right now.
Barring an injury or positive COVID tests, Brees will start the Saints’ season opener on September 13 against Tom Brady and the Buccaneers.
Winston’s role will be that of a traditional backup. Although Winston is athletic, it doesn’t seem likely New Orleans will use him in trick plays the way they do with Taysom Hill, a former starting quarterback at BYU.
Still, Winston can use this time to boost his case as Brees’ eventual replacement. There is no pressure on Winston, save developing and learning the new system.
Winston is doing all of the right things — and when he eventually speaks with reporters, will probably say the right things, too. This is a chance for a career revival, whether it’s in New Orleans or somewhere else.