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Deep-ball chemistry a priority for Bucs' Jameis Winston, DeSean Jackson

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter had an entire reel created this offseason of plays where wide receiver DeSean Jackson was getting open, but quarterback Jameis Winston didn't get him the ball. That reel will be played throughout the Bucs' offseason program, which kicked off this week, and will serve as a reminder that the two have to do a better job of being on the same page.

"It was frustrating, but it's a part of the process," Jackson said. "Dealing with a quarterback like Jameis, a younger guy, he's finding his niche and still trying to be everything they're asking him to be and be accountable for that. With that being said, no one is perfect. I'm not perfect myself. There are plays I could go out and do better myself too ... ."

Improving their chemistry on the deep ball has been an area of focus this offseason, even as Jackson has trotted home to California to be with family and continue his speed work -- something he's done throughout his 11-year career -- and Winston has remained in Tampa. The two have found ways to get together, including two days spent at Florida State in Tallahassee last week.

"Me and DeSean, we have spent a lot of time together this offseason whether it was on the phone, Facetime or even at his house," Winston said. "He will be in Tampa -- not necessarily in the building, sometimes -- so we're going to find times and slots where we can work outside of the facility to help build our connection.”

The Bucs signed Jackson last offseason to a three-year deal worth up to $35 million with $20 million guaranteed. But the plays that made him one of the most electrifying deep threats in the league weren't there. He caught only caught five passes of 20 or more yards and finished with just 50 catches for 668 yards and three touchdowns, some of the worst marks of his career.

In the two full seasons Kirk Cousins was Jackson's quarterback with the Washington Redskins, Jackson caught 26 passes of 20 or more air yards, third-most of any player in the league. In 2016, he tied for the league lead with 16.

"That's one of those rare things you have to just have in you. It's like a niche," Jackson said of catching deep balls. "I'm able to get past defenders with my speed and tracking down balls. So, for a quarterback, it's just one of things, you just have to have a feel for it. Last year, it was hit and miss.

"Hopefully this year we're accountable as individuals -- me and him and everybody else that's involved in that -- just doing everything we can to take advantage of it because missing those opportunities, they don't come too often. So, when you have the opportunity to connect on them, you just have to connect on them."

Cousins targeted Jackson 48 times on those deep pass plays. Winston targeted Jackson 25 times on those passes of 20-plus yards. Sometimes it was Winston's shoulder injury impacting his velocity and other times, he just overthrew him, which has been an issue for Winston throughout his career. He also had another deep target in Mike Evans that he had to account for.

"It took years," Jackson said of building chemistry with Cousins. "We had multiple years of playing together and getting the timing down. I say the deep ball is one of the things that you have to hit it right on the money because a lot of the times it's an inch or if you throw it too far, too short, the defender might hit it. So, it's one of those things you have to have a feel for. Like I said, we're going to work at it, we're going to do what we need to do.

From 2015-16, Cousins produced 60 completed passes of 20 or more air yards, third-most of any quarterback behind Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. His 44.1 completion percentage on such plays was also fourth-highest in the league. By comparison, in his three seasons as a starter, Winston has completed 31.1 percent of those throws, 33rd in the league. He's nowhere near as accurate on the deep ball.

"I think it will work. Talking to a lot of people, they said that the first year between him and Mike didn't really pan out as good as they thought and the second year, it kind of got a little better," Jackson said. "So, if that's something in the works that hopefully plays out with us, since last year we didn't really do too good. This year, hopefully we'll get a lot better. That's what you ask for as a professional. We all have a job to do, which is to go out and be accountable and be consistent as possible."