Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Mike Williams, Vincent Jackson: Buccaneers' dynamic duo

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TAMPA

One side smoke, the other side sizzle.

One side lightning, the other side fireworks.

One side hope, the other side faith.

Together they are Jackson & Williams, Hands Inc., and they are the most explosive receiving partnership to wear the Bucs colors in years. Single cover them at your own risk.

From the time the Bucs threw large wads of free agent cash at Vincent Jackson in the offseason — he caught those, too, by the way — this is the way everyone imagined it would work. Jackson was going to draw most of the attention, and on the back side, Mike Williams was going to make them pay. Together they were going to help salvage the career of quarterback Josh Freeman, and they were going to dance in the end zone, and they were going to help their team enjoy Sunday again.

In other words, it was supposed to look a lot like it did in Sunday's game against the Chiefs. Williams caught four balls, including a couple of circus catches, for 113 yards (his second consecutive 100-yard game) and a 62-yard touchdown (the longest TD catch of his career). Jackson caught four passes for 66 and two touchdowns.

By the end of the day, you might have wondered if the Bucs have ever had a receivers tandem like this one. Keyshawn Johnson and Keenan McCardell? Bruce Hill and Mark Carrier? Ike Hilliard and Joey Galloway?

True, Jackson and Williams have played only five games together. During that time, they have combined for 35 catches, 702 yards and seven touchdowns, and the partnership is still at its start.

On the other hand, Batman and Robin weren't together very long before everyone knew they were pretty good, too.

"Vincent is Batman," Williams said, grinning. "I'm someone more like … Catwoman."

Catwoman?

"Maybe I'm the butler (Alfred)," Williams said. "The butler was cool."

Yeah, but could he adjust to the deep ball?

Williams, 25, on Jackson: "They couldn't have brought in anybody better. Big. Tall. Fast. Hands. Smart. You can put him inside, outside. To me, he's the ultimate receiver."

Jackson, 28, on Williams: "He's an athletic kid. He can make a play on any ball that's thrown his way. He has great hands. He runs good routes. He's continuing to improve every week."

Jackson should know. From the day the eight-year veteran arrived in Tampa, Jackson has served as a mentor to Williams, working on details such as release, blocking and route-running. In the NFL, where receivers want every ball, it isn't always harmonious. But Jackson and Williams have taken to each other.

Also, this helps: Jackson draws most of the attention, which means Williams finds himself in a lot more single coverage than last year, when every route was like trying to jog across the interstate.

The result looks something like Williams' climb-the-ladder catch for 62 yards and a touchdown Sunday. To the outside eye, it looked a lot like a highlight catch. To the third-year receiver, it was "routine."

"I'd give it a 2½ out of 10," Williams said. "It wasn't that good."

If you want to be impressed, Williams said, you should have seen the catch he made for Buffalo's Riverside High against Bergen in a playoff game, when a half-dozen defenders surrounded him and one held his arm as he went up to catch the ball with the other. "Game over," he said.

As for Jackson, he caught touchdown passes of 17 and 19 yards against the Chiefs. He now has four touchdowns in the past two games.

Together the two have been as dynamic as any duo the Bucs have had. If you judge across the league, there is a case these two could end up being among the top half-dozen combinations in the game.

Too soon? Maybe. There are a lot of routes left to run and passes to catch. But their combined talent is impressive. Especially if you are a quarterback in a critical season.

"Mike makes those catches," Freeman said. "I can't say I've ever seen or played with a guy with the ball skills of Mike Williams. It doesn't matter where you put it, he's going to find a way to make a play on it.

"Vincent is very similar. He's like a technician. He's extremely fast, and he runs precise routes, and he's got great hands. He's so big and so physical, yet he's extremely physical. He's a great all-around receiver."

One side razzle, the other side dazzle. And isn't it about time the Bucs had a portion of either?

Keep up if you can.

Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan. He can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @Gary_Shelton.

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