Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Vincent Jackson: Bucs' last remaining impact player

How Jackson stacks up

Vincent Jackson has mixed numbers compared to some of the league's other top receivers. A drop is when an intended receiver touches the ball and fails to catch it. (* Does not include Thursday's game):

Rec.TargetsCatch %Drops
Dez Bryant457659.22
A.J. Green *468469.45
DeSean Jackson457460.83
Vincent Jackson419045.64
Andre Johnson487167.62
Calvin Johnson477959.54
Brandon Marshall466867.64
Wes Welker507269.45
Rec.TargetsCatch %Drops
Dez Bryant457659.22
A.J. Green *468469.45
DeSean Jackson457460.83
Vincent Jackson419045.64
Andre Johnson487167.62
Calvin Johnson477959.54
Brandon Marshall466867.64
Wes Welker507269.45


TAMPA

Vincent Jackson stands alone. • His fellow starting receiver has a bad leg. His starting running back has a bad shoulder. His quarterback has pouted his way to Minnesota. • And so, Jackson, the Bucs' last remaining impact player, enters a huddle that, these days, is filled with strangers. The starting quarterback is 0-4. The starting running back has 96 yards in his career. The guy most likely to start at the other receiver position has four catches this year. • Here he goes, then, Jackson against the world. And how many defensive backs will the Seahawks assign him? Three? Four? Seven? • This is what happens when football turns into a game of survivor, when a receiver turns into the Lonesome End. Week after week, the Bucs offense has been stripped for parts until, now, it is held together by spackle and duct tape. It is journeymen who were never supposed to play and leftovers trying to prove they belong. • And Vincent Jackson.

It's odd, because you can make an argument that Jackson is having a very good season. And then you can argue that he's having a bad one. Maybe both at the same time. He has made more great plays than anyone else on this offense, and still, he has dropped too many passes. He leads the Bucs in receptions (41), and given how often they try to throw him the ball, he should. He has endured a quarterback change, and yet, it seems that he could have done more on his way to 0-7.

If you are fair, you will notice that Jackson, 30, and in his ninth season, is on pace to finish with the most catches of his career (his high is 72, last season). He leads the league in third-down receiving yards. He is tied for fourth in first downs. He is fifth in catches of 20 or more yards. Nothing to be ashamed of there.

Yet, while being fair, you notice that Jackson is the single most-targeted receiver in the NFL. The Bucs have thrown more passes at him (90) than the Lions have at Calvin Johnson (79), than the Cowboys have at Dez Bryant (77), than the Broncos have at Wes Welker (71). Meanwhile, Jackson has caught only 45.6 percent of the balls thrown his way, the lowest percentage of anyone with 25 catches in the league.

Remember the game against Atlanta? The Bucs threw the ball 44 times that day, and on half of them, they threw to Jackson. Hey, no one is open 22 times a game.

Given how hard the Bucs work to find him, shouldn't Jackson be higher in number of receptions than tied for 17th? Given his contract, shouldn't he at least be on the short list for the Pro Bowl?

That's always been the knock on Jackson. He is the star who isn't quite a star. Do you need a guy who can go deep and make an amazing catch, the way he did against Atlanta? Then Jackson is your guy. Need a guy on third and 6 to catch a quick pass, the way the Bucs started against Carolina. Then Jackson, who dropped the pass, isn't your first choice.

"I think he's having a good year," Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. "I think it's getting lost a little bit in our year. Vince is a perfectionist. I don't ever have to get on Vincent Jackson. He's on himself when he makes a mistake.

"I think he's going to have a big second part of the year, too. He and Mike (Glennon, the quarterback) have a good feel for each other. The way Mike is reading out plays, it's going to allow Vincent to get more. If they're going to double Vincent, Mike's going to go to the other guys until Vincent isn't doubled any more."

Schiano said he doesn't worry about targets as long as his quarterback "reads it out" properly. And let's face it: Where else are the Bucs going to throw?

Still, 90 times targeted but only 41 catches? Only once all season, against Philadelphia, has Jackson caught more than half of the balls thrown to him.

Just wondering: Aren't other quarterbacks reading it out properly?

It is a frustrating position, receiver. No matter how good a guy is, and no matter how many times he gets open, he is dependent upon a quarterback to get him the ball. And once it is delivered, people expect him to be perfect. One drop is too many. Two is unforgivable.

"He's had a couple (of drops)," Schiano said. "If you look at the top receivers in this league, they have some drops. Why? They make some spectacular plays. They have such confidence that they're thinking about scoring every time they touch it. You'd love to have spectacular plays and no drops. But that would take the perfect player."

Vincent Jackson stands alone.

It is Thursday's practice, and Jackson stood near the sideline with a coach, working on back-shoulder catches. No other receivers were near the drill. This is Jackson, who has built a reputation as a meticulous worker.

Later, in the locker room, Jackson sits alone.

This is Jackson, too. He rarely talks after games. As far as being a perfectionist, Jackson isn't saying anything about that, either. During the season, he says, he only talks on Friday. That baffles me. He is a captain on an 0-7 team, and when asked for explanations, he prefers to play with his cellphone. Really?

The truth, however, isn't what Jackson says during the week. It's whether he can speak louder on Sunday.

From here on out, the lanes on the field are sure to be a traffic jam. If you were another team, why on earth would you let Jackson beat you? Why not surround him and let the other Bucs do their worst? Jackson might not be all you wish for him to be as a receiver, but in this huddle, he's the last guy standing.

In the meantime, all he can do is keep running routes.

For all that is good about him, and for all that may be lacking, Jackson is still the biggest argument the Bucs have against 0-8.

So why not throw it to him 30 times?

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