Starting today and running through the NFL Draft in April, I am beginning a series of player profiles—or scouting reports—for players the Saints should be looking to add to their football team (thus players who finished this season on the roster are not going to be profiled since most readers already know enough about them).
In 2011, Vincent Jackson had his finest professional season. Jackson finally became the consistently brilliant big-play receiver that Charger fans and brass had been waiting for. That is not to say that he was not a productive player before. It’s only to say that V-Jax went from a really good receiver to a great one in 2011.
He played in his first Pro Bowl—an honor he was deserving of in past seasons—but similar to Marques Colston, he got looked over due to a lack of opportunities and numbers. He caught 60 passes for 1,106 yards—good for 18.5 yards per catch. He also nabbed nine touchdowns on the year.
But the numbers don’t really tell the full story on Jackson.
With V.J., the Chargers found a player with tremendous speed despite a 6’5”, 230 pound-frame. He excels against man-to-man coverage because of his speed and power. His presence forces defenses to bracket him or play a high safety to cut down deep throws over the middle.
He is a wonderful receiver in the red zone due to his size and strength. Even more—he does a wonderful job of positioning himself based on the coverage, and his agility and elusiveness make him a great YAC receiver.
Perhaps the best part is that Jackson is an intelligent player with wonderful instincts and technique. He is a great run blocker, a good guy to hand the ball off to on the occasional reverse and a good screen player.
Though Jackson is an intelligent player, he is prone to make silly mistakes at the most inopportune times. He receives penalties or turns the ball over when the situation turns stressful. This is the single greatest reason that Jackson is not a good fit for a team that stresses discipline like the Saints.
And though Jackson is an elite deep threat, he's sometimes thrown off of his routes and lacks elite ball skills in traffic.
Jackson’s Potential Role With the Saints
Since Vincent Jackson would only be signed if Marques Colston and Robert Meachem were unsigned, it is completely appropriate that Jackson could effectively replace both players.
Like Colston, he presents a big body to go over the middle and make the clutch third-down reception. Like Meachem, he possesses the speed to get open deep over the middle or on the sideline.
Jackson is flexible enough to line up in the slot or out wide, run a variety of different kinds of routes and catch the ball over the middle. And just as Meachem is the Saints’ best run blocker, Jackson would immediately come into New Orleans and hold that title.
Finally, Jackson would benefit similar to the way Darren Sproles did in New Orleans this past year. Jackson caught three passes from Drew Brees as a rookie in 2005 and that familiarity would come in handy as it did for Sproles.
But most of all, signing Jackson is the only thing that would ease the loss of two great Saints receivers. Considering the finances and Jackson’s ability to replicate Meachem’s and Colston’s role, it would almost be a win-win.