TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — During a season in which little has gone right for Tampa Bay's sputtering offense, receiver Vincent Jackson has quietly put together another Pro Bowl-caliber season for the Buccaneers.
The ninth-year pro's accomplishments for an injury-riddled unit that ranked 29th in the NFL in scoring and last in passing and total offense have been overshadowed by a 4-11 record that not only will keep the Bucs out of the playoffs for the sixth straight year but could also prompt the team's third coaching change since 2007.
Heading into Sunday's season finale at New Orleans, the three-time Pro Bowl selection has a career-best 74 receptions for 1,189 yards and seven touchdowns. It's his third straight 1,000-yard season, second with Tampa Bay.
Jackson's done it despite the Bucs' messy split with quarterback Josh Freeman, who lost his job to rookie Mike Glennon less than a month into this season.
And despite the team not having another proven offensive playmaker on the field for much of the year.
"I've never been a stats guy," said Jackson, who played the first seven years of his career with the San Diego Chargers. "I've been fortunate enough to have solid numbers, but being a starting receiver in this league you're expected at some point to produce at a certain level.
"I just really believe in this system. ... I trust our coaches are going to put me in position to be successful," he added. "Each and every year, I come into training camp with a beginner's mentality (believing) I can learn more, I can get better, I can improve on my craft, and I continue to work on that each and every week."
The Bucs signed Jackson in free agency before the 2012 season, giving him a five-year, $55.55 million deal that was written in all 5's in honor of Freeman, who wore jersey No. 5.
And while Freeman prospered in his only full season of throwing to Jackson, becoming Tampa Bay's first 4,000-yard passer, the young quarterback's inconsistency eventually cost him the starting job.