It appears as though the Dexter Jackson experiment could be over, or at least temporarily put on hold.
Tampa Bay's 2008 second-round draft pick was acquired by the Buccaneers to solidify the team's punt and kickoff return jobs, but he hasn't had much success.
Jackson is averaging just 4.9 yards per punt return on 20 attempts with a long of 19. Even though he's averaging 23.4 yards per kickoff return, Jackson failed to field a kickoff cleanly on Sunday night, recovered the loose ball and then fumbled again before defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson recovered for the Bucs.
Jackson, who averaged just 4 yards per kickoff return on one attempt Sunday night, was pulled in favor of WR Michael Clayton. Bucs head coach Jon Gruden suggested Jackson could be headed for the bench.
"Our return game, the fumble to start the third quarter, that can't happen," Gruden said on Monday. "We aren't making enough yardage in the return game. I have to take a look at that. I know [special teams coordinator] Rich [Bisaccia] puts a lot of time in. We'll be supportive and remain confident but we need to get more done there.
"We'll talk a little bit about that today. He's a young player that has been pointed out the last several weeks. He does have talent, and we are asking an awful lot out of a young guy to make some critical decisions. We'll look at that. We'll look at what candidates we do have and what competition we can create. At the end of the day we'll do what's best for our team."
In addition to Clayton, the Bucs have several candidates to replace Jackson in the lineup. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon and WR Ike Hilliard are possibilities in the punt return game.
Bucs practice squad WR Micheal Spurlock is also a player the team could lean on since Jackson is struggling and Tampa Bay has injuries at the receiver position.
Spurlock has averaged 26.2 yards per kickoff return on 19 attempts and 7.5 yards per punt return on three tries while playing for Arizona (2006) and Tampa Bay (2007). Spurlock put himself on the map by becoming the first player in Bucs history to return a kickoff for a touchdown with his 90-yard return and score vs. Atlanta in '07.
The 5-foot-10, 214-pound Spurlock said he'd be ready if the 5-2 Bucs activated him from the practice squad to the active roster this week as the team prepares to face the 4-3 Dallas Cowboys.
"Right now it's about me working hard so that when I do get my shot I can take advantage of it," said Spurlock.