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Buccaneer Notes & Quotes, Dec. 20

Posted Dec 20, 2013

WR Vincent Jackson's numbers in the second half of the season don't quite match his first-half totals, but his play has been even more impressive against added coverage...And other discussions


STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • WR Vincent Jackson has drawn extra defensive attention since the loss of Mike Williams to IR
  • DE Da'Quan Bowers will not play on Sunday in St. Louis, and S Mark Barron could miss the game, too
  • The Rams have listed WR Tavon Austin as questionable with an ankle injury
During the first seven games of the 2013 season, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson caught 41 passes for 623 yards and four touchdowns, with an average of 15.2 yards per grab.  During the next seven games, Jackson hauled in 28 passes for 468 yards and three scores, with a per-catch average of 16.7.

If one judged those numbers devoid of any other context, one might assume that Jackson's first half of the season was more impressive than his second half.  In reality, that's debatable.

The seventh game of the season just happened to be the last one played by Jackson's fellow starter and established NFL receiving threat Mike Williams.  Williams landed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, leaving shoes that haven't been easy to fill.  There is plenty of potential in the rest of the Buccaneers' receiving corps – Tiquan Underwood, Skye Dawson, Chris Owusu, Eric Page and (until he also went to I.R. this week) Russell Shepard.  There is not a lot of experience in that group, however, and all except Underwood, a former seventh-round pick, recently came into the league as undrafted free agents.  The Bucs' tight end, emerging rookie Tim Wright, is also an undrafted free agent, as well as a recently-converted receiver.

The reaction by opposing defenses has been predictable.  As the most obvious threat in the Bucs' passing game, Jackson is seeing many instances of extra coverage being rolled his way.  Asked if Jackson had been seeing nearly constant double-teaming the last two months, Head Coach Greg Schiano said: “I think that’s very fair to say.”

With that context added, it's easier to see why the second set of numbers above might actually be the more impressive one.  Jackson's per-game yardage has dropped from 89 to 67 after Williams' exit, but it hasn't disappeared.  Jackson has remained a productive target for rookie QB Mike Glennon, nearly doubling his touchdown total over the last seven games and actually improving on his yards per catch.  There  is little doubt that the extra coverage has prevented Jackson from putting up the type of numbers he could have in better circumstances – he was on pace for 1,424 yards after those first seven games – but it's overall offensive success that Jackson seeks, not raw numbers in his stat line.

-- WR Vincent Jackson has seven touchdowns in 2013, three in the second half of the season
“I’ve never been a stats guy," he said. "I’ve been fortunate enough to have solid numbers, but being a starting receiver in this league you’re expected at some point to produce at a certain level. I just really believe in this system. I just think if I do my job, I trust our coaches, they’re going to put me in position to be successful.  I just always have the same mentality. Each and every year I come in training camp with a beginner’s mentality; I can learn more, I can get better, I can improve on my craft, and I continue to work on that each and every week.”

Schiano says that Jackson's continued production, and the coverage he has drawn away from Wright and Underwood to help them have a couple of big games, shows the veteran receiver's commitment to his craft and his team.

“I think it says a lot," said Schiano.  "If you look at it, it’s Vincent then a bunch of free agents…who are great guys and really good players, but you’re not going to sit there when you game plan it and say ‘We’ve got to evenly distribute here.  There’s no doubt it’s going to 83.’ I think Vincent’s done a heck of a job this year, heck of a job leading, heck of a job playing.  We’re blessed to have him.”

Jackson has fought through not only extra layers of defense but also his own nagging hamstring strain.  Though the injury has caused him to miss a series of practices, he has played in every game and that's likely to continue on Sunday in St. Louis.  Jackson is listed as probable on Friday's injury report after practicing without limits on Thursday and Friday.

However, the Buccaneers will be without reserve defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, a big part of the team's rotation up front, and there's a decent chance they'll line up without starting strong safety Mark Barron, as well.  Barron has been limited all week by a hamstring injury of his own.

The Rams have marked WR Tavon Austin as questionable after he missed all three practices this week, as well as last week's game against New Orleans.

The full injury reports for both teams are below:

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

S Mark Barron

Hamstring

Questionable

DE Da'Quan Bowers

Knee

Out

LB Lavonte David

Hamstring

Probable

WR Vincent Jackson

Hamstring

Probable

G Davin Joseph

Knee

Probable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

DT Akeem Spence

Wrist

Probable


Rams:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

WR Tavon Austin

Ankle

Questionable

CB Janoris Jenkins

Back

Probable

T Mike Person

Illness

Probable

RB Daryl Richardson

Thigh

Questionable

LB Will Witherspoon

Illness

Probable


Jackson's strong play and the updated injury reports weren't the only topics being discussed at One Buccaneer Place on Friday.  Below are additional thoughts from Schiano and Jackson.

Head Coach Greg Schiano

(Opening Statement)
“Good Friday practice. Guys reviewed everything, got goal line [and] short yardage done, so [we’ll] get some review work done in the morning and get on the plane and go up to St. Louis. Health-wise, [defensive end] [Da'Quan] Bowers will be out, [guard] Carl [Nicks] is obviously out, [safety] Mark Barron is limited and I’m not sure if he will be able to [play], we’ll see he’s questionable. Questions?”

(On if Bowers’ injury is knee related or a recurrence of a previous problem)
“No, it’s not a recurrence of a previous problem, yes it is his knee.”

(On offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan and speculations about an interview for the Army head coach position)
“Well, I’m never going to comment when we have – that’s part of the business, I’m never going to comment when that stuff does come up or doesn’t come up. I will comment on the fact that when you have good coaches, as happened last year and has happened some that guys are never made aware of because fellows tell them ‘I’m not interested,’ but that’s part of the business. Mike is a heck of a football coach and if that’s something that comes up and there’s something to report, I will report it but our focus is really on the St. Louis Rams and what we’ve got to do to win that game so I’m just going to keep it at that, that’ll be kind of the way we handle these things.”

(On if Nicks will stay out for the rest of the season)
“It would seem that way, yeah, there’s only one game after this so, yeah, it would appear that way.”

(On if he thought Nicks was going to return this season)
“Well, you always have hope. That was as trying an injury and everything that was around it, so nothing surprised me on that and I just hope that he’s able to get well and we’re able to get Carl back. That’s my main goal.”

(On Mike Glennon and the rest of the rookie quarterback class)
“I don’t know. I think a lot of it has to do with the team you’re on. Certainly, as we’ve talked about, rookie quarterbacks, no matter how bright they are, they may learn their system, what is different from college is the multiplicity of the defenses that they see. You can show them on video, you can try to simulate it as a scout team, show team walk through look. but until you see it at full speed with the level of players that we see on these defenses, that’s the part that can’t be replicated. I think that’s where guys learn. But, again, what team you’re on, who you’re playing with that all has something to do with it as well.”

(On running back Bobby Rainey in comparison to the team’s other running backs)
“I think Bobby’s the running back. Michael Hill, I’m pleased with his progress, but I think Bobby has done really good things and even though maybe some of the yardage totals in some of the weeks weren’t where you want them to be, some of the individual runs, the way he’s patient and gets all the way to the heels of the linemen before he makes a decision. That may sound easy but that’s hard. You’ve got to trust the play and trust your ability to cut on a dime. I think Bobby has that as a good skill.”

(On what has caused wide receiver Tiquan Underwood to drop statistically since the game against Detroit)
“I think there are a lot of factors. One is the thing you mentioned that people are aware that he is a deep threat and a speed threat. Two, some of it has been just not there. Three we’ve had opportunities and he’s had a couple drops since then. I think it all mixes together, but that was a career day for him. That day isn’t the norm. We’d like to make it his norm, but that wasn’t the norm or hasn’t been the norm I should say.”

(On St. Louis running back Zac Stacey)
“I liked him. We liked him as an organization. He’s a downhill runner and physical, uses his height to his advantage. He has a low center of gravity and he pushes the ball north and south, he’s not looking to run 30 yard runs, although they come, he’s looking to get three or four and then the third he’s come off that.”

(On St. Louis Quarterback Kellen Clemens)
“I think he’s the perfect backup for them because he knows coach Schottenheimer’s system, from the time with the Jets so when [quarterback] Sam [Bradford] did go down, it looks like Kellen just kind of went in and is very, very comfortable. And just listening to him during the week – I try to kind of listen to the players and the coaches and stuff – he’s very confident, very at ease with the process. This isn’t a backup who – this is a guy who’s played a lot of football and understands the system, better than most, probably. So, yeah, he’s done a nice job for them, he’s won some games for them now.”

WR Vincent Jackson

(On the attention he receives from opposing defenses)
“We have other guys to step up, you’ve got respect [wide receiver] Tiquan [Underwood], you’ve got to respect [tight end Tim] Wright, and all those guys. Our running backs are running well. Do I see a little bit of extra attention every week? I do. You see more coverages rolled my way, it can be tougher, but you can find ways around that. Obviously there’s other great receivers in the league that draw a lot of attention, they still find a way to be productive. In that point you definitely have to rely on the coaching staff to put you in position to get the right matchups. For me I trust them and that’s what I do.”

(On if he got the same attention in San Diego)
“Again, you’ve got [San Diego tight end] Antonio Gates in there, it’s kind of a similar system having a tight end that has to be respected. A lot of my stuff earlier in my career was kind of clearing things out for him until I started being more productive and then teams did respect because teams don’t want to give up the big plays and that’s kind of been my M.O. as far as making plays down the field. I have seen that for quite some time.”

(On if the coaches rely on his leadership during difficult times)
“They do, there’s only so much coaches can say. Despite the record, the guys have to believe that we’re playing for each other and you’re playing for the name on the back obviously and that emblem the helmet, representing your city, representing your team, organization that’s given you a job and given you an opportunity. I think we have that here, we have the right kind of leaders in this locker room and out on the field they’re going to not only lead by example, but they’re going to make sure these guys are mentality focused to say ‘You know what, put the record aside, whatever, every time we step on that football field, we’ve got something to prove.’”

(On how tough is it to stay mentally tough)
“It can be. You can let those distractions leak in if you want to or you can just say ‘You know what? No matter’ – you can take away the calendar, you can take away the record and you just say ‘You know what? We’ve got two football games left and right now we’ve been taking like we have since week one, one game at a time.’ We can only play one game this week, St. Louis Rams, and with the opportunity you have, why not go out there and play an excellent game and feel good about it? There’s nothing like that feeling winning of an NFL game, let’s go get that feeling.”

(On what stands out about the St. Louis secondary)
“I just say they’re athletic, the guys can make plays, they are little bit young on paper but they’re well coached. I do know a little about their background and we’ve just got to go out there and be consistent. For us there’s nothing in particular that jumps out on paper, but at the same time we respect everybody, they’re good players.”

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