“This is obviously very disappointing for me personally,” Jackson said in a statement released by the team. “I had high hopes for this season because I know what we are capable of accomplishing as a team. My top priority going into every season is being out there with my teammates and helping my team any way possible. While I may not be on the field for the foreseeable future, I will be focused on beginning my rehab as soon as possible and finding ways to support my teammates in whatever way I can.”
Dirk Koetter’s offense is already without running backs Doug Martin and Charles Sims and wideout Cecil Shorts, whose injuries have contributed mightily to Jameis Winston’s sophomore slump and the Bucs’ overall offensive malaise. The loss of Winston’s fourth-favorite receiving target won’t derail their season, but certainly doesn’t help him right Tampa’s sinking ship.
This one boils down to connections. Rodgers, 26, played under Bucs coach Dirk Koetter in Atlanta, where he piled up 1,116 yards rushing at 3.7 yards per carry from 2011 to 2014. During that span, he also caught 155 passes for 1,104 yards, doing most of that work as a change-of-pace man on third down.
Rodgers spent last season with the Bears and doesn’t loom as a player set for much of a workload in Tampa. He could see snaps as a return man, but the Bucs have their workload set with Martin and cheap jerseys and Sims leading the way.
Charles Sims improved his toughness, but he isn’t a consistent between-the-tackles runner. In his first career start on Sunday, Sims had 13 carries for 55 yards — just his sixth career game with double-digit carries. Sims is one of the best pass-catching backs; not a pile mover like Martin. Jacquizz Rodgers is not the answer either.
With Martin out and the Bucs getting behind early, Winston has thrown more than 50 times each of the past two weeks. In a perfect display of his up-and-down nature, the second-year quarterback leads the NFL in turnovers (8), while being tied for the lead in touchdown passes (8; Drew Brees).
Mike Evans would be hailed as a full-fledged star if he played in New York. The Bucs wideout fried Seattle’s Legion of Boom for a pair of early touchdowns, including one that came head-to-head against All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Evans notched 104 yards off eight grabs to become just the fourth receiver in NFL history to top 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons (joining Randy Moss, A.J. Green and John Jefferson). Evans did so without Seahawks safety Earl Thomas on the field, but that doesn’t take away from a pass-catcher with three 100-yard outings over his past four starts.
Tampa’s resurgence traces back to an improved defense and the promising leadership and play of Jameis Winston. The Bucs passer played a sterling first half before Tampa went scoreless over their final 10 possessions to keep Seattle in the mix. Winston’s worst decision came on a fourth-quarter interception at the goal line, but he also showed courage whipping the ball into tight windows to complete 21 of 28 throws for 220 yards, two scores and the pick. With 14 touchdowns and three interceptions over his past seven games, Winston looms as one of football’s brightest young stars.
The Bucs’ defensive front has propelled the team, harassing quarterbacks and stymied running games. Gerald McCoy, Robert Ayers and stud rookie Noah Spence have combined to form the type of pass rush Tampa expected to employ this offseason. In Sunday’s victory over the Chargers, Tampa sacked Philip Rivers twice but the San Diego line controlled the game for the most part.
This week it was the back seven that made game-changing plays. Linebacker Lavonte David’s pick-six off a tip by rookie corner Vernon Hargreaves gave the Bucs their first lead and turned the tide of the game.
Tampa Bay was undone by turnovers. The Cowboys converted two Jameis Winston giveaways in Buccaneers territory — one strip sack and one interception — into 10 points, which was more than the deciding deficit. When the Cowboys gave the Bucs life with a fumble of their own, Tampa Bay squandered the opportunity with a three-and-out. The mark of a young team is its inability to play smart football in big spots and take advantage of turnovers. On a night that was supposed to be Tampa’s coming-out party, Winston and the Bucs let themselves down.
When Winston wasn’t winging it and keeping plays alive with his unworldly pocket presence and footwork, he was facing a world of hurt at the hands of David Irving. With DeMarcus Lawrence sitting this one out, Irving, an undrafted second-year end, filled in more than admirably, deflecting one of Winston’s passes, sacking him twice and hitting him five times. Along with linebacker Justin Durant, who was Dallas’ standout pass rusher on the night, and the inimitable Sean Lee, Irving led a Dallas front seven that unnerved Winston at key points in the second half and kept him from leading a comeback.