Jackson sparks Bucs offense in late rally
The Buccaneers made a big splash by signing wide receiver Vincent Jackson in the offseason. Jackson has responded by hauling in some big catches early in his Tampa Bay career.
The contributions made by Jackson are overshadowed by Tampa Bay's 1-3 start to the season, including Sunday's 24-22 loss to Washington. But Jackson brings an element to the offense the Bucs hoped for when signing the 6-foot-5, 240-pound receiver to a five-year, $55 million contract in March.
On Tampa Bay's two second-half scoring drives, Jackson came up with two key plays en route to a 100-yard receiving day on six receptions, including one touchdown, as the relationship between he and quarterback Josh Freeman continues to grow.
"I love the kid, I look at him like my little brother,'' Jackson said of Freeman. "We'll continue to grow in this offense together. And it's fun; we really have a lot of fun out there in practice, on and off the field. So, I love the way he works, he's a competitive guy, he's hungry and he works great. And we are going to continue to help him be the best quarterback he can be.''
Jackson did his part on Sunday, using his size advantage to jump up in the end zone and grab a 7-yard touchdown between two Redskins defenders on a third-down play late in the third quarter.
On Tampa Bay's next possession, after a missed field goal attempt by the Redskins, Jackson used his speed to outrun DeAngelo Hall on a sideline pattern to make a diving catch for a 54-yard gain. That play led to a short touchdown run by LeGarrette Blount to pull Tampa Bay to within two points early in the fourth quarter. Those type of connections between quarterback and receiver develop through practice time and having faith in each other.
"That's just repetition, stuff we work on all the time,'' said Jackson, who has 16 receptions for 304 yards and two touchdowns through four games. "It's not just a freak play, it's something we work on each and every day throughout the week, that's when you develop that relationship and trust. He knows that if we get certain looks, he has a matchup he likes, he's going to take a shot. Most times, I'll take our odds that we will come down with it.''
Having those big-play capabilities in the offensive arsenal – Freeman also hit Mike Williams for a 65-yard gain on a sideline route on the drive that led to Jackson's score – is a weapon the coaching staff might look to utilize more often.
"(Freeman) had some big shots to our receivers, made some big plays in the passing game,'' Greg Schiano said. "That's what he's capable of doing. As a team, we just need to play more consistently.''