The speedy receiver joined teammates for the start of the Buccaneers‘ offseason conditioning program this week and reiterated one of his priorities is improving on-the-field chemistry between him and quarterback Jameis Winston.
Jackson signed a three-year, $33.5 million contract in free agency in 2017, however the Bucs struggled to fully integrate him into an offense counting on him to be the kind of dynamic playmaker he was for nine seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles and Washington Redskins.
It didn’t help that Winston was slowed much of the season by a shoulder injury that forced him to miss games for the first time in his career.
And when the two were on the field at the same time, the 24-year-old quarterback rarely was able to connect with Jackson beyond 20 yards downfield.
“It was frustrating, but it’s a part of the process,” said Jackson, who had 50 receptions for 668 yards and three touchdowns in 15 games — his least productive season since 2012 (45 catches, 700 yards, two TDs in 11 games).
“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,” Jackson added.
“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.”
Jackson averaged a career-low 13.4 yards per reception. And for the first time as a pro, he failed to have at least one catch of 60 or more yards in a season.
The 31-year-old’s longest reception during a season in which the Bucs finished 5-11 and missed the playoffs for the 10th straight season, came on a short catch he turned into a 41-yard gain against New England.
“As a football team collectively, I think everyone has their work cut out for them. And as long as we put in the time, which is here on the field and in the meeting rooms, that’s all you can really ask for,” Jackson said.
“Put your best foot forward and just strive to be the best you can be day in and day out. … I’m going to do the best I can to continue to get open, stay electric, stay fast and do what I need to do to help this team as far as big plays or whatever it is they’re asking.”
Jackson recently accepted Winston’s invitation to join the quarterback for two days of work at Florida State, Winston’s alma mater.
“I was able to get down there to his stomping grounds, his roots in Tallahassee. We got a little bit of work done. It was just a part of the process,” the receiver said.
“I think it’s great,” Winston, preparing for his fourth season, said. “I think it really is just me understanding who DeSean is and me understanding how DeSean is. You don’t get a chance to play with that electric-type of player often, so I knew I had to make it intentional to reach out to him and try to build that connection.”
Jackson is not sure how long he’ll remain in Tampa for voluntary work the team began Monday. He’s spent the bulk of his offseason in California throughout his career and has no plans to change a routine that’s been a big part of his success.
Nevertheless, he felt it was important to “show face” for the start of the conditioning program in Tampa, where he briefed coach Dirk Koetter and teammates about his plans.
“When I’m here I’ll give it my full go and work as hard as I can. When I’m gone, I’ll be doing the same thing,” Jackson said. “A lot of times, people judge, `Oh he’s not here, he’s not working,’ or whatever the case may be. When I’m gone, I’m working just as hard.”