Bucs putting pressure on WR DeSean Jackson to live up to contract

DeSean Jackson had 56 catches for 1,005 yards for Washington last season but only four TDs, a number the Bucs hope will rise.
DeSean Jackson had 56 catches for 1,005 yards for Washington last season but only four TDs, a number the Bucs hope will rise.
Published May 22, 2017

TAMPA — If you think the Bucs will pressure WR DeSean Jackson to live up to his contract, well, you're right on the money.

At least that's the message from offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken to the 30-year-old Jackson, who signed a three-year, $33.5 million contract as a Redskins free agent in March with $20 million guaranteed.

The Bucs have a pretty good group of receivers with Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Chris Godwin, a third-round pick from Penn State. But by far the biggest addition this offseason was Jackson, whose speed should draw some defensive heat off Evans and help stretch the field for QB Jameis Winston.

Monken has informed Jackson he has to be a "great player" in 2017, because that's how the Bucs are paying him. Jackson had 56 catches for 1,005 yards (17.9-yard average) last season, but he has had only four touchdowns in each of the past two years.

"How can we get DeSean Jackson up to playing at a really high level? Not that he's still not capable of it, but how do we get him to play at what we paid him?" Monken said Thursday.

"I've told him that, 'We have paid you a hell of a lot of money to be a (very) good player. … We don't have any old street cred that we're paying you. No. We need you to be a great player now. Okay? That's why we gave you the money.

" 'You came here because of the money. Don't give me all that bull about you came here because of the weather and Jameis. No. You came here because we paid you the most. You need to play like that.' He gets that. He's smart enough to understand that."

Best laid plans

Several Bucs coaches believe that had the NFL draft fallen a different way, Florida State RB Dalvin Cook would've landed in Tampa Bay. But nobody expected a player such as Alabama TE O.J. Howard to be available at No. 19. In the second round, Cook went nine picks ahead of the Bucs when the Vikings selected him No. 41 overall.

It will be tough missing RB Doug Martin until October due to a four-game suspension, but the Bucs have to make the best of it. When Martin is on his game, he's a 1,400-yard rusher. But there's no way to know if his demons will resurface. It's not like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, whose struggles with alcohol were there for all to see.

"We will be going somewhat with a running back by committee," coach Dirk Koetter told ESPN last week. "And then it is still yet to be determined what is going to happen at the end of Doug's suspension. But Doug has sure done a good job up to this point with our offseason program."

Next level for Evans

Last year, WR Mike Evans all but eliminated the dropped passes. He dominated in the red zone with 12 touchdowns. So what can he do for an encore?

"One is his route running and his run after catch," offensive coordinator/receivers coach Todd Monken said. "I think he has more in the tank with him because he does have a natural, competitive grit side to him that he should be better with the ball in his hands. I think as he gets more and more comfortable — I think last year was a piece of, 'Okay, let's get better at catching it. Let's eliminate some of the drops that you've had that have led to stopped drives.' Okay, so we got that somewhat corrected. Now, how do we get to where we can utilize your competitive spirit, your ability to run after the catch?"

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Recapturing their edge

Bucs offensive line coach George Warhop believes his guys need to recapture some of the nastiness they lost last year with the retirement of G Logan Mankins. Warhop believes he has found a guy who brings that: J.R. Sweezy, who spent last season on injured reserve but should win the job at right guard.

"He works his tail off, he brings an edge," Warhop said. "I'm excited to see him when we get in pads and it's for real. He's got a little bit of Logan to him, which I thought we missed last year. (He's got) that, I don't even know how to describe it, that 'I'm going to beat the (heck) out of you' edge, and so he has that, and it's just one day at a time with him."