Saturday, December 16, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Receiver Vincent Jackson can soften Bucs coach Greg Schiano's reputation

TAMPA

You have to wonder if all the stories about coach Greg Schiano — including the "toes on the line" rant by TE Kellen Winslow, the kneel-down defense debate and his exhaustive training camp — will affect the decision of any free agents when they weigh signing with the Bucs.

Players tend to go where they believe the money — not the grass — is greener.

But if there is one shining example for the Bucs to hold up to other players, it is WR Vincent Jackson.

The former Charger signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract in March and lived up to the enormous expectations that come with so many zeros. Jackson caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. His 19.2 yards-per-catch average topped the league. He took the heat off WR Mike Williams, who rebounded from a sophomore slump with 996 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.

Last week Jackson was added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster, replacing injured Lion Calvin Johnson.

What would Jackson tell a free agent about playing under the Bucs' ubercontrolling coach?

"I couldn't be more impressed with Schiano and his staff, the way they were able to come in here in one year, coming from the collegiate level to dealing with professionals," Jackson said. "I know (Schiano) has some background in the NFL. But as a head coach, to take the reins the way he did, get his message across, get guys to buy in the way he did under totally different circumstances from years prior, he did an excellent job with that. He's a lot of fun to play for. He's a competitive guy, and he's going to make sure you're as well prepared as you can possibly be.

"I would tell (free agents) it's a top-notch organization; it's a top-notch structure. We have a great coaching staff here. They've built a system and a feeling of family and continuity, not only with the team itself, but I think they've done a great job in the community as well."

Making the new-players task easier for Schiano is he has a locker room full of players who know the way he wants things done and have bought in.

They will set the tone for the new players.

"His way of doing things was, to us, unorthodox," DT Gerald McCoy said. "And with any new thing, change is not going to be easy. It's going to be hard, and there are going to be growing pains. You make adjustments in the offseason, and you tweak things."

Heading west: Jackson might be among three Bucs headed to Hawaii. McCoy was an original choice. And if the 49ers win today's NFC title game, rookie RB Doug Martin would replace Frank Gore.

"Am I pleased with it? Absolutely," Jackson said of his Pro Bowl chance. "It was a great year for me, personally. But obviously, I would definitely take some postseason action and some more wins instead of the postseason accolades."

BARBER WATCH: The Bucs have 10 unrestricted free agents to deal with this offseason, a list that begins with S Ronde Barber.

It likely will be a few more weeks before Barber and the Bucs meet to determine if he will be back for a 17th season. But Redskins defensive backs coach and former Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who remains a close friend of Barber's, believes Barber, 37, should return. "I told him he should play until the wheels fall off," Morris said. "And from what I've seen on tape from last year, he played really well."

Among the other free agents the Bucs must decide whether to attempt to re-sign are DE Michael Bennett, TE Dallas Clark, NT Roy Miller and CB E.J. Biggers.

USF HOPEFULS: Among the former Bucs submitting resumes to become part of Willie Taggart's coaching staff at USF were WR Michael Clayton and S Dexter Jackson, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII. Neither was hired.

Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected] and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.

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