Welcome to Tampa Bay, DeSean Jackson
Tom Jones, Tampa Bay Times, published 16 September 2018

DeSean Jackson found himself running all alone down the middle of the field. He glanced at the Jumbotron and saw his quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, winding up like he was trying throw the football out of Raymond James Stadium. At that moment, Jackson thought to himself, "It's got to be coming to me.''

It was. "The rest is history,'' Jackson said with a smile.

Jackson hauled in the perfect laser from Fitzpatrick, juked out a defensive back and raced into the end zone. Eleven seconds into the game, and the Bucs had a 7-0 lead against the defending champs. Welcome back, DeSean Jackson. And welcome to Tampa Bay.

Oh, I know he was here a season ago, but that wasn't the real DeSean Jackson. THIS is the real Jackson. This is why the Bucs signed him. This is the player they Bucs have expected all along. Scorching cornerbacks. Giving defensive coordinators the shakes. Blowing up the scoreboards. "That is the kind of player that DeSean Jackson brings to the team,'' Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter said. "He's explosive.''

He wasn't last season. Not really. He looked lost. He looked out of rhythm and out of sorts. Jackson caught only 50 passes all last season. He had one 100-yard game. He caught only three touchdowns. His average-yard-per-catch, usually tops in the league at more than 20 yards, had dwindled to a mere 13 yards. The Bucs gave him a $33.5-million contract for that?

There was actually a moment there when you wondered if he would even be back with the Bucs this season and a moment when Jackson might have been perfectly okay with that. But look what he's doing this season. In two games with a chip on his shoulder, Jackson has caught nine passes for an eye-popping 275 yards and three touchdowns. Last season, he had no catches more than 41 yards. This year, he already has two. And besides TD catches of 75 and 58 yards, he also has receptions of 36, 35 and 28 yards.

Jackson is Action Jackson again. "I know what I'm capable of doing,'' Jackson said. "I'm glad my quarterback, my offensive coordinator and my head coach are putting me in positions to make some plays. At the end of the day, I know I have a lot of ball left in me. I'm still running fast. Still beating guys down the field. Leave it up to the play-callers and the quarterbacks throwing me the ball. As long as I can get the ball in my hands, I'll do what I need to do.''

What he does is make big plays. That's now two games in a row when Jackson caught a home run on the Bucs' first possession. "For me, it's unbelievable to have a guy like DeSean out there running around and (I can) lob the ball up there and he can go get it and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown,'' Fitzpatrick said. "He's a special player and he showed that again right away."

It's a wonder Jackson showed it at all Sunday. Last week, he not only suffered a shoulder injury, but a concussion. He didn't practice all week and wasn't even sure he was going to be cleared to play. "It has been a long week, a very emotional week,'' Jackson said. "I did everything I could do to get back right. A lot of rest. I went through a lot of protocol. I had to make sure my noggin was right before I got back out there.''

It would've killed Jackson to not play against the Eagles, where he starred from 2008 to 2013 until they unceremoniously and controversially cut ties with him because, it was reported, they had concerns that Jackson had gang ties a charge that was never proven and vehemently denied by Jackson. "They did me wrong, man,'' Jackson said. "It's just personal. Anytime I get a chance to play against them, it's personal.''

And he personally buried the Eagles on Sunday. There are a lot of reasons why the Bucs are suddenly so explosive in the first two games. You have Fitzpatrick's magic. Good offensive line play. A receiving corps that might be the NFL's best.

But there's no question that Jackson being able to torch any defensive back on the planet and stretch the defense opens up a world of possibilities for the Bucs offense. And it can't be ignored that he has something special with Fitzpatrick. Jackson has now caught six touchdowns with Tampa Bay. Only one has been thrown by Jameis Winston. The other five have come from Fitzpatrick. "I'm getting these opportunities,'' Jackson said. "We're taking some shots down the field. Making big plays. That's what they brought me here for.''

And it's why the Bucs might have something special brewing in 2018.