How many big games does Jackson have left?

by Gary Shelton on September 22, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

So far, Jackson hasn't been an impact player for the Bucs.

So far, Jackson hasn't been an impact player for the Bucs.

Thursday, 4 a.m.

He looked stiff. He looked slow. He looked cautious.

For crying out loud, Vincent Jackson looked old.

Ever see a codger try to cross a busy street? That was Jackson, who looked out of place, out of synch and, for crying out loud, out of speed. On a day when the Bucs could have used Jackson, he was shuffling along, unable to get open, unable to help.

And you wonder: Will Jackson ever catch up.

He is 33 now, and he is coming off an injury-filled season for the Bucs. It is easy to wonder, then, how many post patterns are in his future? How much of an impact does Jackson have left? And is it enough to help young quarterback Jameis Winston over the hump?

Could it be injury? Jackson played in only 10 games a year ago. Might he still be getting his knee back to normal? That might be some of it.

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Could it be a matter of chemistry? Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter was asked about what he was doing to help the chemistry between Winston and Jackson on Wednesday.

“We’re practicing,” Koetter said. “That’s why they call it practice. That’s just it — normal practice compared to what? This is professional football, the best players in the world. It should be precision, perfect practice. Are we perfect on game day? No. Have we been perfect in practice? No, but that’s what you’re working for. Practice, just going out there and tossing the ball around, like my son does, or like teams do in little league — this is professional football. We’re working on that every day.”

Sure. But when a player such as Jackson has been a good player — a great player — for a lot of years, isn't it surprising that chemistry would be a problem?

“Well, I guess I would just say that I have seen in my career where sometimes it can drift in and out and the smallest of things can get it off,” Koetter said. “If it was easy to just go in there and snap our fingers and fix it, trust me, we would have done it. Sometimes we don’t even know how it got off because it hasn’t always been that way. Has it been that way a little bit lately? Yes. We’ve got to figure out a way to fix it. I don’t know exactly what the reason is. We can talk about it, we can identify it, we can look at it on tape, we can go out there and try and correct it on the field — eventually it has to click or the elements have to change. Those are your options.”

Here's the question on everyone's mind. Is it age?

Of course, 33 is different for different players. But Jackson has had heavy wear. He's caught 531 passes as a pro for 8,969 yards. In a seven-year stretch, he had six 1,000 yards seasons.

This year? Jackson has only six catches for only 62 yards. He has not been a factor.

“I think with all of your players, you’re constantly working to make sure that you’re on the same page with the quarterback and his anticipation of where you’re going to be,” said Todd Monken, the offensive coordinator. “He’s the guy that’s under duress. That’s the precision that you’re looking for (that) isn’t there. And they would admit that. We’ve just got to continue to work at it and put Vince in those positions more often. It’s repetitions. It’s the looks we get during practice, it’s obviously Jameis’ anticipation and Vincent’s ability to get to the spots we expect him to get to.”

Monken had said after Week One that Jackson had to play better.

“He played better,” Monken said. “Vincent played better. Now, again, all of our players – I said that in regard to him, but I think all of our players — we need to coach better, we need to play better. We’re continuing to grow as a team. We have a lot of young offensive players, Vincent not being one of them, but in terms of his rapport with Jameis, it’s still working. You don’t get a lot of practice reps. We’ve just got to continue to put Vincent in the spots where he’s going to get opportunities to catch it.”

On the other hand, 33 really isn't ancient for a wide receiver. Remember Joey Galloway, the old Buc? He was 34, a year old, when he had his best season. At 33, former Buc Keyshawn Johnson had 71 catches for 839 yards for Dallas. Jerry Rice, the best receiver ever, played until he was 42.

Whatever the reason, the Bucs need Jackson to make more of an impact. Otherwise, the pressure on Mike Evans increases mightily.

“I don’t see (age),” Monken said. “I’ve never looked at it that way. I understand the question, but he still has a lot left in the tank. He’s running fine, he’s catching the ball fine, he’s in the right spots. We just have to do a better job of all of us being on the same page. Which again, is a few plays. We’re not talking about the majority, we’re talking about 10 percent of the time, just making sure we’re in the right spot where he can anticipate and make a throw so we can be more successful offensively.”

Winston, of course, wouldn't hear of any criticism of Jackson.

“No, I don’t think it’s just, like you said, ‘Not where it needs to be’ — that’s everything right now, is not where it needs to be, not just me and Vincent,” Winston said. “We’re going to get better, that’s the thing, you get better every single week. I put most of that on me. I have to be playing with better rhythm and better accuracy to help our team out.”

Break the game down to the basics. With Doug Martin out, the Bucs may struggle to establish a strong running game. That means it's up to Winston. But Jackson is struggling at No. 2, and Adam Humphries is trying to establish himself as the team's No. 3. It doesn't leave a lot of options.

Oh, by the way, the Rams are ninth in the league against the pass. The Cardinals, who frustrated the Bucs so, were 16th.

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