Thursday, February 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs want to free up Jackson

TAMPA — Mike Williams has joked that in the Bucs' dynamic receiving duo, he's Robin and Vincent Jackson is Batman.

In that case, Jackson, 30, is missing his sidekick quite a bit.

With Williams gone due to season-ending hamstring surgery, Jackson could have used some super powers the past three weeks to free himself from suffocating coverage as the 2012 Pro Bowl pick saw a lot more double-teams and a lot fewer passes.

The last time Williams played, Oct. 20 in Atlanta, Jackson had 22 targets and 10 catches for 138 yards, including a 59-yard score that remains the Bucs' longest offensive play of the season. But in the past two games, Jackson has been targeted just 12 times with five catches.

With the Bucs missing Williams and running back Doug Martin (shoulder surgery), opponents have focused on Jackson, their best remaining offensive option.

But most No. 1 receivers get extra defensive attention and still get the ball, and coach Greg Schiano made it clear the team must get Jackson more involved starting Sunday against the Falcons.

"We need to make sure he gets his touches because he's a dynamic player," Schiano said "You're talking about a Pro Bowl player. And certainly with the loss of some (of our) weapons offensively, defenses are really going to key on him now. That's a fact of life. But get over it and find a way to get him the ball."

The team has tried to move Jackson around, including playing him as the inside slot, an uncommon place for a player of his size (6 feet 5, 230 pounds) and stature. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan said they're working on new ways to utilize Jackson and the best solution includes play-calling and design.

"It's a matter of finding the right mixture because you can move him around. But then you say, 'Wait a minute, if we're putting him in this spot, then it's 100 percent pass if you check the run-pass ratio,' " Sullivan said. "So maybe you better run out of that. We're focused on (freeing up Jackson) because that is a guy we are counting on."

Jackson, a nine-year veteran, still leads the team in receptions (46) and yards (662) and is on pace for his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. He said while he still wants the ball, he's not frustrated by the double-teams because it means a teammate should be open.

"We just want to move the ball," Jackson said. "We want to come away with points. We want to do the right things on offense, and that's all we're asked to do is score points. However that gets done with whomever it gets done, we'll be happy with that."

Rookie quarterback Mike Glennon said with Jackson often having two defenders responsible for him, it has been tough to get him the ball. So Glennon said has looked at others in one-on-one coverage. There aren't many proven options after Jackson, though Tiquan Underwood has eight catches over the past three games starting for Williams and rookie tight end Tim Wright has 10.

"As a receiver being on the other side of a guy like Vincent Jackson, you know a lot of attention is going to be focused on him," Underwood said. "So you have to step up, and when the ball comes your way, be ready for your opportunities."

Glennon tried a deep ball to Jackson in the third quarter Monday against the Dolphins. But he was double-covered and didn't appear to expect the ball, slowing up on what turned out to be an overthrow. Another intended pass to Jackson was intercepted.

"We won't shy away from Vince at all. We'll still look to get him the ball as many times as possible," Glennon said. "But overall, (I've) just got to go through my reads and throw the ball where my eyes take me.

"If teams want to double him, we know we'll just have to sometimes throw to other guys and find other ways to get Vince the ball."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_JSmith.

 
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