As we reach the eve of training camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may want to look at changing Vincent Jackson‘s role on the team. They need to look no further than the Arizona Cardinals’ blueprint with Larry Fitzgerald.
Vincent Jackson has been one of the most successful free agent signings in Buccaneers’ history. Entering his fifth season with the team, Jackson has 253 receptions for 4,153 yards and 20 touchdowns, placing him fourth in Bucs history, only 147 yards behind Ring Of Honor member Jimmie Giles. However, as Jackson approaches the 2016 season at age 33, it’s time for Jackson’s role to change.
We all know he isn’t the receiver he once was. After a season where Jackson was plagued by injury, Dirk Koetter and his offensive staff should look to the Cardinals for answers.
Larry Fitzgerald is a hall of fame receiver – first ballot. Yet, for the first time in his twelve year career, his role on the team changed. Although he wasn’t thrilled about moving from the outside to the slot position, Fitzgerald did it. As a result, Fitz hauled in 109 receptions – the most in his career – and 1,215 yards. Add to that nine touchdowns and you have a receiver that redefined himself and likely extended his career.
So what does that have to do with Vincent Jackson?
Quite simply this: VJax needs to be the Bucs’ Larry Fitzgerald. With the hopeful emergence of Kenny Bell this season, Jackson can fill the role of the slot receiver. A common misconception is the slot guy has to be some quick, burner type that has to blow past the secondary for deep passes. In actuality, Jackson would serve as a security blanket for Winston.
Despite the age concern, Jackson still creates major mismatches in the slot, especially when covered by linebackers. When the defense is in a nickel and they have a corner on him, it will create 1-on-1 opportunities for Mike Evans on the outside. Carving out this role for Jackson moving forward will help in Winston’s continued development and open up the offense even more.
When talking about the battle for the number three receiver as training camp kicks off, the battle should focus on who can play outside opposite Evans, not the slot guy. That position should go ti Vincent Jackson as it did Fitz in Arizona. It worked wonders out there and there is absolutely no reason it can’t work here.