The Curious Case of Dexter Jackson

Bryan HoltCorrespondent IAugust 4, 2009

When the name Dexter Jackson comes up in a discussion about the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the first thought that pops into the minds of most is championship glory.

They think of the Super Bowl XXXVII MVP safety who managed two magnificent interceptions in Tampa Bay's historic victory over the Oakland Raiders.

Then they remember that that Dexter Jackson is long gone and they turn their attention to last year's second round draft pick who is on the brink of becoming yet another early round wide receiver bust.

That realization is sharp and humbling.

I experienced it while sitting at the Bucs' Saturday night practice at Raymond James Stadium. As the 5'10" 185-pound Jackson sprinted down the sideline running a deep route, I remembered the seemingly wasted draft pick and was almost surprised that he bothered showing up to camp this year.

After all, his size that I listed above is a kind overstatement created by the fairy tale writers that put together Sunday programs. He seems to lack any of the physicality and toughness that it takes to be a National Football League receiver.

Jackson was drafted to be a game-changing kick returner.

His 4.27 time in the 40-yard-dash left Buccaneer scouts drooling over the premature thought of having a Devin Hester inspired figure in their arsenal. It was for this reason that they spent a valuable second round draft pick on a kick returner.

The move immediately left fans and analysts shaking their heads but this would amazingly be the high point of the decision. As the season began and progressed, Jackson was deemed useless on special teams and was replaced by undrafted free agent Clifton Smith.

The relatively unknown Smith took the job with a determined tenacity and quickly became the most explosive special teams weapon that the Bucs have had in recent memory. His electrifying touchdown in Kansas City (the second kickoff return for a touchdown in Buccaneer history) sparked the team's biggest comeback in franchise history.

As Smith continued to provide stellar performances, Jackson was cast further and further away from Buccaneer relevance. He was too undersized to take part in Jon Gruden's physical short yard passing game and his job as kick returner had been permanently revoked.

In an offseason full of coaching and personnel changes, Jackson was less than an after- thought. However, he did manage to make it to training camp which is more than many former Bucs can now say.

The most startling concept of all is that this year might actually be a chance for Smith to reinvent himself and rise from his already prepared grave. New offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski has brought with him two promises: a power running game and an offense that regularly throws the deep ball.

The latter could be a promising deal for Jackson as a deep threat offense requires speed, something that is not exactly plentiful in Buccaneer receiving options.

While Jackson may have not been adequate for Gruden's across the middle, grind through the linebackers, tough wide out role; he may be a welcomed addition to Jagodzinski's plans.

Jackson may never be a consistently reliable receiver but if he can establish himself as a deep threat for the Bucs, he may just barely be able to cling to a roster spot. In the early goings of training camp, he certainly looks much more comfortable in his new prospective role.

However, before he can worry about any aspect of his future in Tampa, Jackson must survive training camp and the preseason. It will not surprise anyone if he is the casualty of a cut day and it would not be nearly the toughest decision that the Bucs might have to make.

This is the National Football League, not Appalachian State.

There is no spread offense formula and 4.27 speed is not a cure-all for other inadequate tendencies.

Jackson could be the fortunate beneficiary of a new offense and find a niche with the team that seemed destined to dispose of him last season.

But for now, he must take everything one two-a-day at a time and approach the upcoming exhibition games like the desperate long shot that he has become.

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