NFL Teams
Jenna Laine, ESPN Staff Writer 17d

Bucs WR DeSean Jackson frustrated over lack of chemistry with Jameis Winston

NFL, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson admitted Tuesday it has been frustrating to not have instant chemistry with quarterback Jameis Winston or the level of production Jackson is used to.

Some of that frustration boiled over Sunday after a missed a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of a 25-23 victory over the New York Giants. Jackson threw his gloves on the ground and was shouting on the sideline.

"It's just part of being a playmaker in this league that wants to make plays," Jackson said. "Anytime I get the opportunity to get the ball, I just want to make good plays and help my team win the game and just create big plays. It was just a part of that."

Against the Minnesota Vikings two weeks ago, Jackson led the Bucs with 84 receiving yards and a touchdown. But two of Winston's three interceptions were passes intended for Jackson.

Then against the Giants, wide receiver Mike Evans was targeted a whopping 11 times, followed by slot receiver Adam Humphries (seven targets) and tight end Cameron Brate (six). Jackson was targeted six times but mustered just two catches for 20 yards. He has only had five games in the past eight seasons with less production.

The Bucs (2-1) signed him to a three-year contract worth $33.5 million, with $20 million guaranteed, and it wasn't to do that. It was to be the guy who could bring speed and sizzle to the offense, who could truly stretch the field and give the Bucs a vertical threat they lacked since Winston arrived.

"[It's] definitely hard, feeling like being a veteran in this league 10 years. ... But I'm not gonna abort ship," Jackson said. "I'll stay on course, stay on plan. Eventually it will come together. We just gotta continue to go out there and keep beating, beating away and [doing] the things you need to do to get better."

Through three games last year, while playing for Washington, Jackson had nearly 100 more receiving yards than he does now. He and Winston had a talk this week to discuss some of the things they can do to get on the same page, to get better with their timing and their chemistry. Winston has never played with a receiver who has Jackson's speed.

Winston has also been with Evans, Humphries and Brate since his rookie season in 2015. Plus, the past two years, Winston had to rely heavily on Evans because their receiving corps was ravaged by injuries. Their chemistry grew out of necessity.

"When you go out there and play with a guy for so many years, he knows what to expect. It's still fresh, still new with me," Jackson said. "We all know how much [Winston] wanted me, how much I wanted to be here as well. Hopefully it will work out. That's all that matters."

Both Winston and Jackson emphasized that winning is the priority above everything else. They also emphasized that they're just three games into the season. The connection can come with some extra work, preparation and patience.

"I think I've just got to get on track with him," Winston said. "I have to play better, in all respects. He's just doing what he does -- getting open a lot. But it's the fourth game. I don't want to get into a little talk about, 'Oh, I'm going to do this, I've gotta get D-Jax the ball.' It's obvious: I've got to get him the ball. He's going to make this team better."

Todd Monken, the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach, added: "There's room for improvement on both ends -- from how we practice it from Jameis' end and DeSean, and all of our skill guys in terms of doing it better."

Jackson can't seem to figure out where the disconnect is, though.

"I wish I had the answer for you," Jackson said. "We're professionals. We're NFL players. We get paid to do a job, to go out there and execute the plan. Hopefully it will come together. It's just a work in progress. It's still early in the season; we've played three games. Eventually, sooner [rather] than later, we can connect."

Monken understands the frustration. He emphasized that all skill players want the ball and want to contribute. But unlike other sports, receivers aren't solely responsible for their performances. It also becomes much more difficult for quarterbacks to hit throws the farther they get down the field -- the type of throw Jackson is known for catching.

"This isn't baseball where I step into the batter's box and I have my opportunity. This isn't basketball and I can create my own shot. As receivers, you're dependent on a lot of factors to get the ball," Monken said.

"You can play really well and catch the ball for 50 yards. You can play poorly and end up with eight catches for 100 yards and to the naked eye, you think you've had a great game," Monken said. "Bottom line is, we've got to do it better, we've got to practice it better so when the opportunities come up, we hit those."

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