THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. –Heading into the 2015 NFL Draft, NFL.com analyst Lance Zierlein said Buccaneers QB Jameis Winston "has a big arm by NFL standards."
Four years later, Winston's arm strength has maintained its reputation.
Winston's ability to throw the deep ball will test Los Angeles' defense, and so too will his ability to extend plays on Sunday.
"Of course, he's got the receiver to do it, but he will throw the deep ball a lot," Rams DC Wade Phillips said, when asked to compare Winston to previous quarterbacks the team has played this season. "He moves in the pocket well, buys some time. Not really a scrambler, but a good feel in the pocket. He finds people open."
NFL Next Gen Stats reinforce Phillips' assessment.
According the service, Winston averages 8.3 completed air yards – defined as the vertical yards on a pass attempt at the moment the ball is aught in relation to the line of scrimmage – most in the league. The metric is used to determine how far the ball is being thrown downfield.
Furthermore, Winston's 2.2 air yards to the sticks – the amount of air yards ahead or behind the first down marker on all attempts for a passer – rank second in the NFL. It's an indicator of whether the passer is attempt his passes past the 1st down marker or dependent on his skill position players to make yards after the catch.
It also helps, as Phillips alluded to earlier, to have a receiver of Mike Evans' caliber.
The former Texas A&M standout had eight catches for 193 yards and three touchdowns in the Bucs' one-point loss to the Giants last week, including a 55-yard connection with Winston on one of those scores.
"They're an explosive group," Rams CB Aqib Talib said.
When Winston declared for the draft in 2015, Rams head coach Sean McVay was the Redskins' offensive coordinator. Washington had stability at quarterback at that time because of starter Kirk Cousins, so the position – and thus Winston – wasn't on McVay's radar at the time, but he still managed to catch Winston's performance against Notre Dame.
More telling than Winston's stat line, the way McVay saw it, was how he responded to mistakes and his competitiveness.
The arm talent, however, didn't go unnoticed either.
"He can make all the throws," McVay said. "You can see guys believe in him – his teammates kind of rally around him."