|Sun 9/18||@ Vikings||1PM|
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By Tom Krasniqi
He might be the most imposing receiver the Buccaneers have ever had. At 6-5 and 230 pounds, Vincent Jackson has been a big playmaker during his 7-year NFL career. Jackson has also been called many things throughout his career: Deep threat. Physical freak at the receiver position. And yes, even labeled a malcontent while he was with the Chargers. One thing he hasn’t been called until now is “a leader”.
But since he signed a huge free agent deal with the Bucs back in March, Jackson has been a leader both on and off the field to the younger receivers on the team. Wideout Preston Parker praised Jackson’s work ethic in the classroom by taking detailed notes. Jackson is also serving as a mentor on the field in terms of route-running and preparation. It’s that kind of effect that will push guys like Parker to improve each and every day. Jackson told me after practice on Thursday that he embraces his role. “I’m not a real in-your-face kind of leader but I will lead by example. I’m going to go out there and work every day, I think they see that….I’m gonna take good notes and do everything right in meetings”.
The Bucs have been overly impressed by Jackson’s leadership skills. “Work ethic…study habits, attitude, effort on the field”, says Bucs coach Greg Schiano when asked what Jackson brings to the table. But make no mistake—The Bucs paid him a 5-year deal worth around $55-million to be the dynamic playmaker that Josh Freeman desperately needs in the passing game. Throughout his 7-year career, Jackson has hauled in 37 career touchdowns and is averaging 17.5-yards per reception. That’s the kind of downfield threat the Bucs haven’t had since Joey Galloway.
Jackson was perhaps the biggest star of minicamp. He constantly beat his man off the line of scrimmage and used his height and strength to overpower defenders in traffic. That should make him a nightmare to defend in red-zone situations. Needless to say, he will Freeman’s go-to guy this season. I asked Jackson to compare Freeman to Phillip Rivers. He didn’t take the bait. “There’s no comparison. Each guy has their own skill set…I’m excited. Josh is a big, strong athlete and a smart kid. I think he’s going to be very successful in this league”, Jackson says. There appears to be a good rapport developing between Freeman and Jackson and that should continue with training camp just six weeks away. Jackson is the clear cut #1 receiver and he’s hoping that Mike Williams, Preston Parker, Arrelious Benn and company can follow his lead.
News & Notes:
• Bucs coach Greg Schiano says he’s “concerned” about Aqib Talib’s upcoming trial which is scheduled to begin on June 25th in Dallas County, Texas. Schiano says Talib has been a model citizen since he took the job in January and is hoping for the best result. Schiano says the team has a contingency plan in case Talib is found guilty and/or is disciplined by the league.
• Schiano had high praise for rookie defensive back Keith Tandy, who was the team’s 6th round pick out of West Virginia. Schiano says Tandy is “a sharp football player mentally” and loves his versatility. Tandy has played cornerback, safety, nickel back and dime back.
• RB LeGarrette Blount says the coaches have been working overtime on his ball security throughout the offseason. The staff is teaching Blount to cradle the ball high and tight to his body in order to eliminate his fumbling problems. Blount fumbled 5 times last season and lost three of them.
• The final minicamp practice ended up being less than an hour long on Thursday. Left tackle Donald Penn caught a punt from 40-yards out, which gave the players the rest of the day off. Penn was mobbed by his teammates after “The Catch”.
• Training camp dates have not been announced yet by the team. The best guess is looking like the last week of July.