TAMPA — The recent loss of Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams to a season-ending hamstring injury appears to be having its expected negative impact on fellow wideout Vincent Jackson.
Jackson continues to lead the team in pass receptions with 46. But in the two games since Williams left the lineup, Jackson has been targeted just 12 times and has only five receptions for 39 yards.
Those numbers must change, Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
“We need to make sure he gets his touches because he’s a dynamic player,” Schiano said. “You’re talking about a Pro Bowl player.
“And, certainly, with the loss of some (of our) weapons offensively, defenses are really going to key on him now. That’s a fact of life. But get over it and find a way to get him the ball. That’s what we have to do.’’
The Bucs already use Jackson as both a wideout and a slot receiver, a role that seldom falls to players of his size and caliber. Schiano suggested they might have to move Jackson even more to get the production needed from him.
Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan is working on new ways to utilize Jackson, but suggested the best option might come from a combination of play design and play calling.
“It’s a matter of finding the right mixture, because you can move him around but then you say, ‘Wait a minute, if we’re putting him in this spot then it’s 100-percent pass if you check the run-pass ratio,’ ’’ Sullivan said.
“So, maybe you better run out of that. But the bottom line is, there is no question we have to continue to do that to be effective. We’re focused on that because that is a guy we are counting on.’’
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Bucs RG and offensive co-captain Davin Joseph is a lead-by-example types who seldom challenges players verbally. But he changed his approach a couple weeks ago when the team made a commitment to run the ball more.
“Davin called a meeting and said, ‘Enough is enough, we have to run the football because that’s what’s going to get this team going,’ ” RT Demar Dotson said. “And we took pride in it and put it on our shoulders, and that’s what we’re taking pride in right now.”
The Bucs ran 75 times for 345 yards (4.6 yards per carry) the past two games despite being forced by injury to use a variety of spare running backs. Many believe Joseph’s message to the line is a reason for that success.
“We were given the tall task of preparing our offense to run the ball,’’ Joseph said. “A lot of adjustments were being put on us, a lot of checks, along with finishing and being physical and all the little things that make the run game work.
“And we had some success (at Seattle) and then we carried that over to (the Miami game) and we like it. We like the fact that our head coach and our offensive coordinator put that trust in us as a group.’’
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The slow but steady upward trajectory the Bucs believe DE Da’Quan Bowers has been on since the season started has been interrupted yet again, this time by what might be a concussion.
Three days after recording half a sack in the final critical moments of Monday’s 22-19 victory against the Dolphins, Bowers missed his second straight day of practice Thursday with what the team described as concussion-like symptoms.
Earlier this year, a toe injury limited Bowers’ playing time just when the Bucs thought he was about to “take off.’’
Playing in the Monday Night game gives him one less day to recover, so his chances of playing against the Falcons on Sunday will diminish greatly if his symptoms don’t subside soon.