Sunday, May 27, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Early lack of Jackson-Winston chemistry puzzles Bucs

TAMPA — Vincent Jackson does not sound like he is ready for the old-timers game. He hasn't had to learn how to get open with a walker. He doesn't cash his payroll and pension checks on the same day.

Sure, the Bucs' 33-year-old receiver is off to a slow start. Jackson has been targeted 16 times this season and has only six catches for 62 yards. He caught two passes for 18 yards in the Bucs' 31-24 win at Atlanta on Sept. 11 and ran a wrong route, resulting in an interception of Jameis Winston. In Sunday's 40-7 loss at Arizona, Jackson caught four passes for 44 yards.

Coach Dirk Koetter said Wednesday that Winston and Jackson need to get on the same page or "the elements have to change," hinting at a lineup switch.

But Jackson says he isn't slowing. And if you don't believe him?

"Come out and watch practice," Jackson said Thursday. "What you see on Sunday sometimes doesn't always translate to what's reality, you know what I mean? I feel great. I still feel like I'm playing at a very high level. Our coaches have all the confidence in me, obviously. My teammates do as well. So for me, it's just continue to do my job.

"I don't have to try and do too much or press or anything extraordinary. I trust my training. I know I can make plays, and when those opportunities come — I hope more come my way — but I'm just going to continue to do my job."

Jackson also said he was surprised that he and Winston haven't clicked much this season, especially because they seem to connect in practice. They played 10 games together last season and worked hard since the spring, running hundreds of pass patterns.

"It's tough," Jackson said. "We've been going at this since April."

Koetter said the smallest of things can affect players' chemistry.

"If it was easy to just go in there and snap our fingers and fix it (with Jackson and Winston), trust me, we would have done it," he said. "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.

"Eventually it has to click or the elements have to change. Those are your options."

At this point in the season, the time for working on timing routes and precision is over. In a normal practice, Jackson and Mike Evans might have 16 passes thrown to them by Winston, including warmups.

"I think if Vincent gets good opportunities, he'll be fine," Koetter said.

This could well be Jackson's last hurrah. He is in the final season of a five-year contract that pays him $9.7 million this season. Until two knee injuries last year forced him to play his fewest games since his holdout year with the Chargers in 2010, Jackson had reached 1,000 yards receiving in six of his previous seven seasons.

Offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken said Jackson "still has a lot left in the tank."

"He's running fine. He's catching the ball fine. He's in the right spots," Monken said.

"It's a handful of plays. Unfortunately, they've cost us a couple of turnovers. I would say the majority of the time (Jackson and Winston) are on the same page."

Jackson bristled at a suggestion by Monken that he played "harder" in Week 2 than he did in Week 1.

"I play hard every week. I don't know what he meant by that," Jackson said. "But each and every week, I go out there and I'm laying it all out for the team. I've always played that way. You can go back and check out all my film from my entire career. I play hard.

"Our chemistry is fine. Our relationship is fine. We've got to hit them on Sundays. And that's just a matter of execution, whether it starts with protection and Jameis being able to sit in the pocket and seeing the same things that I'm seeing or what the other receivers are seeing as far as the defense's leverage and things like that and giving us an opportunity to catch the ball and securing it, finishing it."

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