Last season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers failed DeSean Jackson. Against the New Orleans Saints they began working towards rectifying that failure.
One of the most frustrating narratives of the most recent off-season was that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasted money on wide receiver DeSean Jackson when they signed him to a three-year deal worth $33 million. Expectations were understandably high, and there’s no question that Jackson failed to meet those expectations. The “why” behind those failed expectations is where people seem to get tripped up, though.
In fairness to the cynics, I see where they’re coming from. It’s generally a little suspicious when a 31 year old veteran cashes in on a big contract and then follows up with a career-worst season. We’ve seen that happen a million times over the years in the NFL and more times than I can count with the Buccaneers specifically. Jackson’s situation was different, though, and only apparent if you were watching the games.
More from The Pewter Plank
- Devin White posts cryptic message to Lavonte David on Twitter
- ESPN predicts surprising outcome to Devin White trade saga
- Updated Buccaneers depth chart after signing two players from rookie minicamp
- Todd Bowles sends clear message about Baker Mayfield’s role with Bucs
- The Athletic is wrong about Bucs one ‘must-watch’ game in 2023
Jackson’s chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston started off slowly last year, and it showed several times over the first few games. Winston missed Jackson several times on deep passes against the Chicago Bears, keeping his stat line at a meager three catches for 39 yards. The following week against Minnesota, Jackson found four catches, 84 yards, and his first touchdown as a Buc. The prevailing story, however, was once again missed opportunities, and not at the fault of Jackson – if not for more overthrows and miscommunications, Jackson would have had over 100 yards that game.
That trend continued throughout the season. Two catches on six targets against the Giants. Five catches on nine targets against the Patriots. Three catches on eight targets against the Panthers. On and on it went, a painful torment for the Buccaneers as they left hundreds of yards on the field. After Jameis Winston’s shoulder injury against the Cardinals, it seemed all hope was lost for any chemistry-forging between quarterback and receiver; it goes without saying that a hobbled throwing shoulder does not mix with a deep-ball receiver at all. The final stat line for Jackson was a paltry 50 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns.
With minimal drops and his trademark speed still very much in place, it was clear that Jackson’s rough 2017 was more a product of bad luck than Jackson being washed up. Jackson and the Buccaneers needed to prove that this season, though, and the road to redemption became far more difficult once word of Jameis Winston’s three-game suspension came out.
With one game in the books, it’s safe to say: so far, so good.
Against the New Orleans Saints, Jackson caught all five of his targets from Ryan Fitzpatrick for 148 yards and two touchdowns. Just like last season, Jackson was constantly running wide open, only this time the Buccaneers capitalized. This Saints game was how things should look, and how I expect them to look for the rest of the season. Tampa’s ridiculously potent group of receivers keeps defenses from diverting the resources they typically would towards slowing Jackson down.
This wasn’t just a one-game occurrence either, or one restricted to only Ryan Fitzpatrick. In the preseason it was evident that Winston and Jackson’s chemistry was much improved, as the pair hit on several deep plays. All of this seems to point in one clear direction: big things are ahead for DeSean Jackson with the Buccaneers.
If Jackson is able to recover from the concussion he suffered late in the Saints game then he’ll get the opportunity to take on his former team, the Eagles. Jackson practiced on Thursday but still hasn’t been officially cleared from concussion protocol as of this posting. In Jackson’s last game against the Eagles, he caught three passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.