SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL.
FAB 1. AS EXPECTED, BUCS LAND SPEEDY JACKSON IN FREE AGENCY
Take a close look at that picture of new Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson.
See how far ahead he is of the Chicago Bears defensive back?
Do you see the separation created from 4.35 speed?
Last year, Jackson was the most explosive player in the NFL, averaging 17.9 yards per catch for the Washington Redskins. In fact, at age 30, Jackson’s reception average in 2016 was slightly better than his 17.7-yard career average.
Since the end of the 2016 season, Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter and general manager Jason Licht have been lamenting at how Tampa Bay saw a big drop in the number of explosive plays on offense from the 2015 season when the team had the league’s fifth-ranked offense and went over 6,000 yards for the first time in franchise history.
Jackson had four plays over 50 yards in 2016 en route to catching 56 passes for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns for the Redskins. Last year, Tampa Bay was the only team in the league that didn’t have an offensive play of 50 yards or more.
Former Bucs WR Joey Galloway – Photo by: Getty Images
With 4.35 speed, Jackson is an older, slightly slower version of University of Washington wide receiver John Ross, whom Jackson actually trains with and mentors (don’t rule out Ross to Tampa Bay at No. 19 if he’s still on the board). Ross set an all-time NFL Scouting Combine record with a 4.22 in the 40-yard dash.
Jackson becomes the most explosive wide receiver in Tampa Bay since Joey Galloway’s heyday from 2005-2007 when he averaged 16.6 yards per catch and had 17 receptions of 40 yards or more. And Galloway accomplished that and produced three straight 1,000-yard receiving seasons with the Bucs at age 34-36. The 30-year old Jackson appears to have plenty of miles left on his tires like Galloway had when he arrived in Tampa at age 33.
Now former Bucs receiver Vincent Jackson is no slouch, and averaged 16.56 yards per catch from 2011-16. That ranks third behind DeSean Jackson’s 17.47 avg. and Torrey Smith’s 17.0 avg., according to ProFootballReference.com, but he was a different type of receiver at 6-foot-5, 235 pounds.
Vincent Jackson produced 14 plays of 40 yards or more, including a franchise-record 95-yard catch in 2012, but he wasn’t the speedster that Galloway was or DeSean Jackson is. And he failed to produce a catch of 40 yards or more in each of the last two seasons.
Not only will Jackson’s arrival bring big-play ability with his own production, he’ll help out Mike Evans’ production, too. Evans had a career year last season with 96 catches for 1,321 yards and 12 touchdowns, which tied the franchise record he set as a rookie in 2014. With Jackson’s presence on the field it will be more difficult to double-team Evans.
“Now they can’t put bracket coverage on Mike,” said Evans’ agent Deryk Gilmore. “They probably still will, but if Jameis [Winston] can get it to DeSean, who can stretch the field, that’s great.”
Evans told PewterReport.com how excited he was to have Jackson as part of the Tampa Bay offense.
“Jackson’s speed and big-play ability will help our team greatly,” Evans said. “I think it was an awesome pickup.”
Tampa Bay was one of two teams last year that didn’t record a 50-yard touchdown, according to ESPN Stats & Info. Jackson has had 37 career catches of 50 yards or more with 21 of them going for touchdowns.
Bucs WR DeSean Jackson – Photo by: Getty Images
Not only does a proven veteran with dangerous speed give opposing defenses somebody else to worry about and more options for Winston to throw to, Jackson will also help the Bucs’ running game. With only Evans to really focus on after Vincent Jackson was placed on injured reserve with an ACL injury last year, Tampa Bay’s opponents could double-team Evans, single up on everyone else and bring a safety down in the box to help stuff the run.
Jackson’s ability to stretch the defense will force more Cover 2 and Cover 4 coverages and keep a safety out of the box on first downs. Teams will have to keep both safeties back in coverage more often and that should help the running game, which in turn will help Tampa Bay’s play-action passing game, which is predicated off a strong rushing attack.
Not only did Evans, Winston and the Bucs’ passing game improve with the acquisition of Jackson helps much maligned Tampa Bay’s offensive line and running backs, too. That’s the type of impact the Jackson signing has in Tampa Bay.
PewterReport.com’s reporting was out in front of the Jackson signing and the re-signings of defensive end Will Gholston and running back Jacquizz Rodgers. So you won’t want to miss PewterReport.com’s Bucs draft coverage as our 2017 Bucs’ 7-Round Mock Draft 3.0 hits the website on Saturday. I’ll be handling that mock draft, and PewterReport.com’s new Bucs beat writer, Trevor Sikkema, will be doing a new NFL first-round mock draft on Sunday.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
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