Two Critical Second Chances

March 5th, 2018



It’s a difficult word to spell and a bear to pronounce, but keep it in mind when you consider the fortunes of the 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

With free agency and the draft on the horizon, Buc fans are naturally curious to see what offseason moves this organization will make to get back on the right track. Beefing up the trenches is an obvious focal point, but there are a couple of players already on the roster who can give Tampa Bay a major boost — if they play up to expectations.

Yes, we’re talking about DeSean Jackson and Vernon Hargreaves, One’s a veteran trying to recapture past glory. The other is a third-year pro still trying to prove he belongs on an NFL stage.

By no means are the Bucs moving on from Hargreaves and Jackson this fall, despite meager production.


When it comes to first-round draft picks, GMs are in no hurry to admit a mistake. You can’t be a draft dodger when you sit down with your owner and try to explain poor judgment at the top of the selection process.

Hargreaves was lauded for his ball skills at the University of Florida, but Buc fans haven’t seen it. With only one interception in 25 NFL games, Hargreaves finds himself on trial entering a new season.

Why hasn’t Hargreaves gotten his hands on more footballs? He’s too far away from the action.

As a rookie, he gave away more cushions than Sealy. There he was, crouching 10 yards off the line of scrimmage, offering receivers a free release.

Last summer, we heard a lot of chatter about how Hargreaves would display more aggression, challenging wideouts and exuding more confidence.

That talk ended when the season began and Hargreaves reverted to passive form.

When the Bucs shifted him inside to the slot, Hargreaves played more effectively before a hamstring injury ended his season in November. If Hargreaves had shown more as an outside corner, the Bucs wouldn’t be in such a desperate mode to re-sign potential free agent Brent Grimes.

Free Replay

Investiture tells us that Hargreaves will make the team, but if a new regime comes along in 2019, Hargreaves could be vulnerable.

“We were very happy with Vernon after his rookie year,” Jason Licht says. “We thought he was really trending up. Last year, he had a couple setbacks and he would be the first to tell you that. By no means are we giving up on Vernon.

“He’s got a lot of talent. I had a lot of positive conversations with Vernon at the end of the year and I’m excited where his mind is right now. I think he’s going to have a pretty good year.’’

Targeted well before the start of free agency, Jackson was supposed to be a whirlwind to stretch the field. Instead, he stretched the patience of Buc fans wondering,who was this impostor wearing No. 11?

Rapture Or Bust

For nine years, whether he was catching passes from Kirk Cousins, Robert Griffin, Nick Foles, Michael Vick, Kevin Kolb or Donovan McNabb, Jackson reigned as one of the league’s premier deep threats.

He generated at least one 60-yard reception in each of those nine seasons until joining Tampa Bay in 2017, when his longest catch was a mere 41 yards.

“We just didn’t give DeSean enough chances down the field,” Dirk Koetter said on his weekly interview with SIRIUS Radio. “DeSean got behind the defenses. We missed him sometimes, didn’t see him sometimes, maybe didn’t have enough time sometimes, maybe didn’t try it enough. For whatever reason, we didn’t give DeSean enough opportunities to do what he does best.”

When the season ended, Koetter hinted that Jackson was open all year long. My explanation is rather simple — Jameis Winston and Jackson forged little chemistry/timing and Koetter didn’t take enough shots downfield.

If I’m Koetter, I’m throwing three or four deep balls to Jackson every week. Every damned week. If the passes are accurate, Jackson’s going to draw more than his share of interference calls because few corners can keep up with his breakaway speed.

And like Andy Reid told me last year, Jackson has that rare knack for maintaining his acceleration while the ball is in the air instead of dropping down a gear. If Winston can’t get those deep passes close enough to connect or prompt a flag, that’s on him.

Like Hargreaves, Jackson isn’t going anywhere. Koetter wanted him and Licht signed him, so they are all in this venture together. If they flourish this fall, Jackson and Hargreaves could lead the way for a Buccaneer revival.

They have it in their power to replace investiture with rapture.

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays during football season, and see him now on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360. Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.

17 Responses to “Two Critical Second Chances”

  1. Hodad Says:

    If VH3 is playing to far off the receiver that’s on the coaches. More deep balls to Jackson isn’t the answer, getting him the ball on quick slants, bubble screens is. To hear Licht talk it sounds to me like the staff is going to double down, and compound the mistakes they made last year. Maybe if Koetter had the team practice harder, and more often the chemistry would improve between the two. Right now Winston is working his Butt off to improve while Jackson is chillin in L.A.. I don’t want to see videos of Winston pushing a truck, I want to see him throwing to D Jax in the off season along with Evans. Until that happens, chemistry is just a class you would rather skip in school.

  2. teacherman777 Says:

    Desean Jackson was no “imposter!”

    He was amazing! Jameis is the one who kept missing him!

    I declare, that if Jameis had hit Desean on those missed TD passes in the first 6 games, we would have won 8-9 games this year! Scoring early changes the entire game! In terms of the other teams gameplan. Go back and watch the first 8 games. Jameis missed Desean on a ton of guaranteed touchdown passes.

    Desean is King Cheetah! One of the best of all time!

    Skinny, tough, great hands, sick feet, elusive, and extremely competitive.

    Never call him an “imposter.”

  3. BetterBuccinBelieveIt Says:

    Well said Ira! VHIII gave “more cushion than Sealy”!! Lol. Indeed Ira.

    I myself am not too worried about DJax getting on track in 2018, that wasn’t on him.

    Hopefully Kyle Fuller does indeed hit the open market as the Chicago Tribune reports. Hopefully his character is good and his price isn’t anywhere north of $12 mill per year.

    Go Bucs!

  4. StPeteBucsFan Says:

    We’ll see won’t we! How much did #3’s shoulder mess up his throws last year?

    How about new work in the off season between DJAX and #3? Perhaps it will produce an improvement.

    I think DJAX is highly motivated this season after last year’s debacle. That couldn’t have been fun. Skipping OTA’s probaby was not the brightest idea.

  5. 813bucboi Says:

    2018 is all on the coaches!!!!!!…..the coaches have to put these player in position to win and play to their strengths……

    #NOEXCUSESIN2018!!!!!….GO BUCS!!!!

  6. Lou. Says:

    The story that VHIII was playing off the ball while the coaches wanted him to chuck never made any sense. The whole defense is predicated on the release angles and area handoff responsibilities. A corner freelancing would get everyone killed.

    So why the blatant untruth?

    Was that how Smith wanted the secondary to play but Vernon just couldn’t handle it? Or was there a scheme change? Or did other teams attack the defense in a different way than in 2016?

    Mike Smith didn’t forget how to coach. There were some personnel issues, as he prefers massive tackles and Swaggy didn’t work out. But the story of why VHIII played down last year and especially the question of why he played so far off has never been explained.

    One significant point may be that Grimes is great in that arrangement and the team did not want to slant the field by having the other corner playing up.

  7. darin Says:

    Hohad and teacherman nailed it. 10 yard cushion is on mike smith. If he didnt want it, it wouldnt be there. Need more slants, then more. Then lets hope he keeps the deep ball inbounds at least.

  8. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Watching the combine I remember Winston’s performance and his deep balls were on point. Same at FSU. In training camp he was connecting with Djax on a bunch of bombs. So i’m really hoping it was just the injury..

    I’m still hopeful for VHIII but we need 2 legit CBs in front of him/Ryan Smith. Grimes + Fuller would be ideal + a later draft pick mixed in. Or Fuller + midpriced FA + mid round pick if Grimes retires

  9. Tony from Los Angeles Says:

    It’s all about line play when it comes to the deep pass offense Koetter wants to run. A lot of the misses are on Jameis. But we tend to forget just how often he evades pressure in such an effective manner that we don’t even really count it as pressure – whereas a flatfooted QB would have had to rush the ball away or gone down for a sack. But even when Jameis evades that pressure – he rarely is able to get set again properly – hence the misfires.

    While we can cross our fingers and hope Jameis just becomes more accurate, the smarter play is to get him the thing that ALWAYS helps a QB – more time in a cleaner pocket.

    Sign Norwell. Priority #1
    Draft Nelson if he’s there.
    Been saying this for months. Give Jameis the interior line of Norwell, Marpet, and Nelson and he will have every chance to succeed with the weapons he already has. This will benefit the passing game, the ground game, and thoroughly help the defense due to time of possession improving.

    The Bucs can then spend remaining picks and free agency on shoring up the defense with a focus on bringing in a lot of bodies for the d-line.

    Sign Norwell. Draft Nelson.


  10. Bucsfanman Says:

    813-I’m with you on this one. I mean, I’m not sure that VHIII was worth a first round pick but, putting him out there and allowing him to play off just put him in a position to fail. Time will tell whether he’s a complete “bust” or not, but the Bucs need him to step up.

  11. 813bucboi Says:


    I agree….we need not only him, but the entire team from scouting department to trainers to front office to coaches and players to step up this….lots of jobs are on the line…..

    #NOEXCUSESIN2018!!!!!….GO BUCS!!!!

  12. LakeLand Says:

    Maybe some better coaching will give them that extra boost.

  13. Rob Says:

    You’re wrong about Desean Jackson, it was Winston’s fault. Winston is so inaccurate, he needs a goaly type receiver to run down the field and shield defensive players from the ball as he dives one way or the other, or up, to catch the ball… i.e. Mike Evans. And before him, Vincent Jackson. And then you berate them for no Yards After Catch. Incredulous! Winston couldn’t hit the Jolly Green Giant in stride to save his life. Am I ready to give up on Winston, yes, but I know I’m in the minority. I would love to see, then, Winston work on that, but I don’t think it’s in him. Benjamin at FSU was his Evans (goaly).

    Go out and get that guard that you talked about here the other day from the Panthers, draft BPA, probably the Notre Dame guard, and give Winston more time to set his damn feet properly and deliver an accurate ball. Winston’s work ethic is going to get him another season in Tampa. Probably deservedly so, even though I would draft the kid out of Oklahoma with such a quick release and decision making times. Keep Ayers, Gholston and coach ’em up. Have you seen what a manbeast Gholston is and how mean Ayers can play? Gholston’s almost as big as that quarterback in Carolina that I can’t stand!!!!

  14. Pelbuc Says:

    Until JW acquires accuracy on the deep ball, DJax’s true value won’t be achieved. As for VH3, official bust! Same for Gholston. This team need nasty players.

  15. SB Says:

    How come most of the Sensible posters only post on Ira’s article? That is another good question.

  16. destinjohnny Says:

    we are becoming the browns…..

  17. FortMyersDave Says:

    VH3 equals Eli Apple south, complete bust. Is it so hard for Licht to admit that his 2016 draft was a total loss?