S Dexter Jackson won Super Bowl XXXVII MVP honors with two first-half interceptions
For the second straight week, a former big-time contributor on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' defense has returned to the team. This one, in fact, brings back impressive hardware: It's safety Dexter Jackson, owner of the Most Valuable Player trophy from Super Bowl XXXVII.
To make room for Jackson on the 53-man roster, the Bucs released running back Jamel White.
Jackson has been a free agent since his release from the Arizona Cardinals on October 13. He had not played during the regular season due to an offseason back injury.
The Buccaneers may need immediate help at the safety position, considering they could be without both of their starters this Sunday against San Francisco. Free safety Jermaine Phillips has already been ruled out due to a forearm fracture and strong safety Dwight Smith is questionable due to a knee sprain. Until Jackson's signing, those two injuries would have left the Bucs with only two healthy safeties, fourth-year reserve John Howell and rookie Will Allen.
Jackson, like Howell, was originally a fourth-round pick of the Buccaneers, the former in 1999 and the latter two years later. After backing up Damien Robinson for two years, Jackson took over as the free safety starter in 2001. He played in and started 31 games over the next two years, recording 164 tackles, seven interceptions, 21 passes defensed, 2.5 sacks, two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.
Jackson had 86 tackles and three interceptions during the 2002 regular season as the Buccaneers won the NFC South and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVII. In the championship game, he earned MVP honors on the strength of his two game-turning interceptions in the first half. He was only the second safety ever to win that award.
After the Super Bowl season, Jackson signed with the Arizona Cardinals as an unrestricted free agent and the Bucs responded by moving Smith, who also had two interceptions (both returned for touchdowns) in the Super Bowl, from cornerback to safety. At Arizona in 2003, Jackson started all 16 games and came up with a career-best six interceptions, along with 88 tackles and seven passes defensed.
Last week, in response to a similar rash of injuries at the defensive tackle position, the Bucs brought back Chidi Ahanotu, who had excelled for the team from 1993-2000 after being drafted in the sixth round. Ahanotu started in his first game back, filling in for the injured Anthony McFarland and combining on one of the Bucs' five sacks at Atlanta.
Jackson will step back into a familiar system, as the Bucs' defense is largely unchanged since 2002. The unit is still led by coordinator Monte Kiffin, and Jackson's last position coach, Mike Tomlin, is also still on board. Tampa Bay's pass defense, which led the league during Jackson's last year in Tampa, currently ranks third in the NFL.
White, signed as a free agent in March after four seasons in Cleveland, appeared in seven games for the Buccaneers. He ran 13 times for 20 yards, caught four passes for 17 yards and returned four kickoffs for 99 yards.