If you only focus on last Friday’s preseason game in regard to new Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson, words speak louder than actions.
Words would have to, because Jackson wasn’t targeted at all in the Bucs' first preseason game. There were 18 other Bucs receivers who got looks, according to the Tampa Tribune, but Jackson was left out.
Still, Jackson’s been the talk of training camp thus far—because his actions and words are inspiring everyone around him to be better.
"Aside from V Jack, we're pretty young," Bucs receiver Tiquan Underwood said in a Tribune report. "We just follow, we just basically follow Vincent Jackson's lead. He's been doing it for a long time at a high level, a constant professional on and off the field, a hard worker who lets his play speak for himself."
The 29-year-old Jackson spent seven seasons in San Diego prior to signing with the Bucs in the offseason. In three of his last four seasons, Jackson has gained more than 1,000 yards receiving. In his seven seasons, he’s averaged 17.5 yards per catch.
When he signed with the Buccaneers, Jackson was expected to be a receiver to stretch the field a bit—someone who could take pressure off Mike Williams, who has happily been relegated to the No. 2 spot on the wide receiver depth chart.
In addition to exactly those two things, Tampa Bay got much, much more.
"You will see him do everything," Schiano said about what fans will see when he’s actually thrown at in a game. "Deep, middle, short, under. He is capable of every route on the tree. He is capable of running them well."
So well, said backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, that Orlovsky, in just a few weeks spent with Jackson, easily compares him to some of the best receivers in the game.
"What don't I see?" Orlovsky said. "I've been as impressed with Vincent, as I've had a chance to play with some Hall of Fame receivers, with Andre Johnson in Houston, Reggie (Wayne), and Calvin (Johnson) in Detroit, and the similarities between them are scary. (Vincent) has an unbelievable amount of humility. I say that they have talent and perform like elite players, but work like they're undrafted rookies."
Through one preseason game, the world outside of One Buc Place is just going to have to take the word of the media and coaches and players who see Jackson every day. And that word is that no free-agent player in Tampa Bay, possibly the NFC South, heck, maybe in the NFC, is making more of an impact on his new team than Jackson.
Receivers coach P.J. Fleck talked about how much fun it was watching the young quarterback and his new No. 1 target interact. Fleck feels this could easily, and quickly, become one of the league’s best quarterback-receiver tandems.
"Very quickly because they're both hungry," Fleck said. "If one is hungry and the other is not, you have an issue. But they're both hungry.
"From the first pass Vincent caught from Josh, you could tell the mold just formed. They would talk to each other after every play. They still do that. It is really neat to watch."
Maybe as important as what Freeman and Jackson can do on the field is what Jackson and the rest of the wide receiver corps can do both on and off the field.
From very early on, the young receivers in Tampa Bay have treated Jackson like a wise old sage—picking Jackson’s brain for information at every opportunity.
Fleck told the Tampa Tribune that he was sitting Jackson and Williams next to each other in all meetings and that he wants Williams to cheat off Jackson, to look at every note Jackson takes.
"That's why I want them sitting right next to each other,'' Fleck said. "I want Mike to look at Vincent's notes because Vincent is so meticulous. He's a great guy to learn from.''
And with all these accolades thrust upon him from the media and coaching staff through training camp thus far, Jackson remains humble. He’s taking the stance that he’s here to do a job—make Tampa Bay better—and not be a prima donna.
"For me, I'm not looking here to seeing myself shine any brighter than anybody else," Jackson said. "I'm here to do my job, fulfill my role on this team and whatever that might be. I'm excited to do that."
And that’s exactly what this young receiving corps and this young team needs. But don’t worry about Jackson's share of the limelight. When he actually gets targeted in the offense, he’ll surely shine.
He’ll just do so humbly.