Jackson putting up career numbers with Buccaneers

In what’s been a roller coaster season for the Tampa Bay

Buccaneers, receiver Vincent Jackson has been a model of

consistency and quietly put together one of the best seasons of his


The ninth-year pro leads the Bucs with 69 receptions for 1,334

yards and eight touchdowns and has been everything the team

envisioned they were getting when he signed a five-year, $55.55

million contract as a free agent after spending eight years with

the San Diego Chargers.

Jackson had his fifth 100-yard game of the season during

Sunday’s 28-13 loss to the St. Louis Rams and has already set

career bests for receptions and yards in a season. He had his first

200-yard game in a win over Kansas City, and he’s averaging a

NFL-best 19.3 yards per catch.

The Bucs (6-9) will take a five-game losing streak into Sunday’s

season finale at Atlanta. Quarterback Josh Freeman has struggled

during the skid, yet primarily because of the impact Jackson has

had on the Tampa Bay offense, the fourth-year pro only needs 157

yards against the Falcons to become the franchise’s first

4,000-yard passer.

Jackson’s contract was done in all 5’s in honor of Freeman, who

wears jersey No. 5. In addition to giving the Bucs the first

legitimate deep threat in more than a decade, the 29-year-old has

helped third-year receiver Mike Williams rebound from a subpar


”I couldn’t be happier to be here,” Jackson said, adding that

it didn’t take him long to decide to sign with the Bucs following a

short conversation with first-year coach Greg Schiano when the free

agency period began last March.

”It only took about five minutes. Learning his mentality, his

approach to the game, what he saw my role to be, being leader kind

of guy with my work ethic, just the way he wanted this organization

to change,” Jackson said. ”Not just the players but an entire

organization, the city and way the league views this team. It’s fun

to play for a guy like that. Everybody in this locker room has

bought into it.”

Williams had seven receptions for 132 yards and scored Tampa

Bay’s only touchdown on a 61-yard catch-and-run against the Rams.

His production slipped a year ago following a standout rookie year,

however he’s benefited from Jackson’s presence and enters Sunday’s

finale with 57 catches for career bests of 931 yards and 16.3 yards

per reception.

”My role is to do what I’ve always done. … Obviously, guys

kind of feed off the things I do,” Jackson said. ”I try to be a

professional at all times. Just sharing knowledge. We call it being

farmers. You can’t grow good corn if your neighbors don’t grow good

corn. I want everybody around me to be successful.”

Rookie Doug Martin has rushed for 1,321 yards and 10 touchdowns

and is third in the league in total yards from scrimmage behind

Adrian Peterson and Calvin Johnson.

Nevertheless, the Bucs will miss the playoffs for the fifth

consecutive season.

Jackson, who had seven receptions for 108 yards, thinks the team

is headed in the right direction.

A four-game winning streak helped the Bucs overcome a 1-3 start

to climb back into contention for a postseason berth at 6-4. But

mounting injuries, Freeman’s inconsistency and a porous pass

defense have taken their toll during their current skid.

There’s been no letup in Jackson’s game, though. He has 27

catches for 451 yards, including a pair of 100-yard performances,

over the past five weeks to move within 69 yards of breaking Mark

Carrier’s 23-year-old franchise single-season record of 1,422


”I’m happy to contribute the way I have. I still think this

offense has some things we haven’t completely executed as well as

we could have in all different areas,” Jackson said.

”But we have great talent … as far as offense goes. Tight

ends, running backs, obviously Josh. For me to step in here,

there’s a lot of great tools around me that allow me to be

successful,” the 6-foot-5, 230-pound receiver added. ”For me, I

just have to go out there, continue to work as hard as I work, have

fun, enjoy it and we’ll see how the season ends. Right now, it’s

about wins.”

Coaches and teammates rave about the receiver’s work ethic and

way he leads by example.

”He’s been such an impact player for us. First by his

performance on the field, plays he has made, the consistency, his

professionalism, and the versatility,” offensive coordinator Mike

Sullivan said. ”There is a complete physical presence, a dominant

physical presence. He’s a leader, part of the solution. We’re very

fortunate to have him.”

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