Mon Sep 17 5:53pm ET
By FRED GOODALL
AP Sports Writer
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) grabs a pass over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver DeSean Jackson (11) grabs a pass over Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Ronald Darby (21), during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mark LoMoglio)
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Ryan Fitzpatrick isn't the only reason the surprising Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to their fastest start in eight years.
Speedy receiver DeSean Jackson is making a difference, too, finally beginning to deliver what the team has been expecting since signing him in free agency before last season.
Fitzpatrick has thrown for 819 yards and eight touchdowns in victories over New Orleans and defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia the past two weeks. Jackson has a pair of 100-yard games receiving and three TDs - two of them on plays of 50-plus yards.
''It's unbelievable. He's playing out of this world right now,'' said Jackson, who scored on a 75-yard reception of the first play of scrimmage in Sunday's 27-21 win over the Eagles.
''He's in his prime,'' the 31-year-old receiver added of the 35-year-old quarterback who's filling in for suspended starter Jameis Winston. ''Us old guys, we are in our prime. He's playing like he's 28 and I'm playing like I'm 24. So as long as we keep doing that, it's going to be a good year.''
Jackson, coming off a disappointing debut with the Bucs in 2017, has nine catches for 275 yards and three TDs the past two weeks after having one of his least productive seasons with 50 receptions for 668 yards and three TDs in 14 games a year ago.
He followed a five-catch, 146-yard, two-TD performance against the Saints with a four-catch, 129-yard performance against the Eagles.
And with TDs of 58 and 75 yards this season, he's eased ahead of Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Terrell Owens for the third-most TD receptions of 50-plus yards behind Hall of Famers Jerry Rice (36) and Randy Moss (29).
Jackson, who spent six seasons with the Eagles and three with the Washington Redskins before signing a three-year, $33.5 million contract to join the Bucs, has 23 career TDs of 60 or more yards - tied with Rice for most in league history.
''I talked about this since I was younger, it's being legendary and leaving something for the league to understand that I made my mark, man,'' Jackson said. ''I still have a lot of ball left in me. To tie Jerry Rice's records is very emotional for me.''
When Tampa Bay signed Jackson in March 2017, the Bucs were coming off a 9-7 finish the season before and envisioned the speedy wideout adding a much-needed element to their offense: a deep threat not only capable of stretching defenses, but someone able to turn short completions into big gainers.
''For me, it's unbelievable to have a guy like DeSean out there running around,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''Loft the ball up and he can go get it and turn it into a 75-yard touchdown. He's a special player, and he showed that again.''
Through two games, Fitzpatrick has four completions of 50-plus yards, all for touchdowns. In addition to teaming with Jackson on the first play against Philadelphia, the 14-year veteran connected with tight end O.J. Howard on a 75-yard catch-and-run play against the Eagles.
Meanwhile, four-time 1,000-yard receiver Mike Evans and second-year pro Chris Godwin each have two TD receptions.
''We have good skill guys. ... Chris Godwin is an emerging star. O.J. Howard is an emerging star. DeSean Jackson, Mike Evans (are) proven, big-time players,'' coach Dirk Koetter said. ''If you really think about it, we've still got Cam Brate and Adam Humphries, who just aren't getting very many chances right now.''
Next up is a Monday night matchup against Pittsburgh at home, with a chance to begin a season with three consecutive wins for the first time since 2005.
''You can't peak too early. We have a lot of football left,'' Jackson said.
''We have a big one coming up with Big Ben (Roethlisberger) and AB (Antonio Brown) coming to town,'' the receiver added. ''I grew-up a Steeler fan, so I'm going to be amped up for that game too.''
New England Patriots right tackle Marcus Cannon (concussion) did not practice all week and has been ruled out for Week 7 against the Bears. Quarterback Tom Brady's protection won't be as good as usual against a strong Chicago pass rush, although All-Pro defensive end Khalil Mack (ankle) is questionable and was slowed by his injury last week. Still, it's something to keep an eye on for this Sunday. If New England's offensive line is struggling, expect the Patriots to get the ball out quickly, which would favor receiver Julian Edelman and running back James White.
Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Brice Butler (groin) practiced in full all week and is no longer on the Week 7 injury report against the Redskins after sitting out in Week 6. While Butler could see a role against Washington, he has yet to catch a pass in 2018 and would be behind Allen Hurns, Cole Beasley, rookie Michael Gallup and Deonte Thompson in one of the worst passing offenses in football, so you can continue ignoring him.
Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill (shoulder) will play again this season, but his long-term future is in doubt. Tannehill continues to battle injuries and has not lived up to expectations in the first seven weeks of the season. Before the knee injury that kept him out for all of 2017 he had a quarterback rating of 93.5 and completed 67.1 percent of his passes in 2016. His QB rating through five games this year is at 92.9 with a completion percentage of 65.9. Tannehill is scheduled to cost $26.6 million against the salary cap next year, while releasing him after the year take $13.2 million off the cap. It all likely depends on whether Tannehill can improve in the second half of the season when he returns from his right shoulder injury. Until then, Brock Osweiler will fill in under center. Tannehill will probably be dropped in shallow leagues with him likely to miss at least the next two games.
Detroit Lions RB Ameer Abdullah could see some action in passing situations with RB Theo Riddick (knee) ruled out against the Miami Dolphins in Week 8.
New Orleans Saints WR Tre'Quan Smith is expected to see a larger role after WR Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list, and Smith said he is 'ready for the opportunity.'
Fantasy Spin: Smith was able to show that he can be a threat down the field when he caught three passes for 111 and two touchdowns against the Washington Redskins in Week 5. He will be a boom-or-bust flex option against the Ravens in Week 7.
New Orleans Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr. (knee) has a 'realistic' chance to return when he is eligible to come off the Reserve/Injured list in eight weeks, according to head coach Sean Payton.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB Carlos Hyde won't overtake RB T.J. Yeldon for the lead back role against the Houston Texans in Week 7, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: The Jaguars backfield could become quite crowded if Leonard Fournette is ever healthy, but until Hyde's role becomes clear, you should hang on to him in all formats. That being said, you won't want to start him in Week 7.
Jacksonville Jaguars RB T.J. Yeldon will remain the 'main back' for the Week 7 game against the Houston Texans, according to Michael DiRocco of ESPN.com.
Fantasy Spin: The Jaguars just acquired Carlos Hyde, but until he has a full week of practice with the team under his belt, it makes sense that Yeldon would shoulder most of the load. Yeldon can be a RB2 in most leagues.
Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is always a start given his elite status but he will have a tough matchup this weekend against rookie cornerback Denzel Ward. Evans massive height gives him a natural advantage over the undersized Ward but he will have a difficult time getting separation. Back-to-back duds by Evans shouldn't discourage his owners from starting him this weekend since he's still Mike Evans. Just don't expect much more than low-end WR1 numbers against Cleveland.
Arizona Cardinals QB Josh Rosen (toe) is dealing with a sprained left toe but should be available for the Week 8 game, according to head coach Steve Wilks.
Fantasy Spin: Rosen has struggled since taking over as the starting quarterback but will be working with a new offensive coordinator next week. Rosen should not be a starting option in any fantasy leagues, but owners may want to keep an eye on him to see if he improves over the next few weeks.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers DT Vita Vea will start at defensive tackle in the Week 7 game with DT Gerald McCoy (calf) sidelined, according to head coach Dirk Koetter.
Dallas Cowboys LB Sean Lee (hamstring) is expected to play in the Week 7 game but will be on a snap count, according to executive vice president Stephen Jones.
Dallas Cowboys WR Tavon Austin (groin) will not undergo groin surgery at this time but is expected to be sidelined for several weeks.
Denver Broncos CB Adam Jones (thigh) likely will be able to play in the Week 8 game, according to head coach Vance Joseph.
Denver Broncos OT Jared Veldheer (knee) and LB Shane Ray (ankle, wrist) may have a chance to play in the Week 8 game, according to head coach Vance Joseph.
Los Angeles Rams PK Greg Zuerlein (groin) fully participated in practice Friday, Oct. 19, and is not on the injury report for Week 7.
Fantasy Spin: Zuerlein is one of the top kickers in the NFL and is a must-start option in all leagues when he is healthy.
Los Angeles Rams WR Cooper Kupp (knee) did not participate in practice Friday, Oct. 19, and has been ruled out for Week 7. DT Michael Brockers (shoulder), LB Matt Longacre (back), WR Josh Reynolds (hand), OG Rodger Saffold (knee), C John Sullivan (non-injury) and OT Andrew Whitworth (non-injury) fully participated in practice and are not on the injury report.
Free-agent WR Auden Tate was signed to the Cincinnati Bengals practice squad Friday, Oct. 19.
Miami Dolphins WR DeVante Parker (quadriceps) said he will be available for the Week 7 game but is not sure how much playing time he will be able to handle because of the injury.
Fantasy Spin: Parker has been limited to only two games because of injuries and has posted only 40 yards in those games. Owners probably should avoid him even if he is active for the game.
Oakland Raiders RB Jalen Richard is expected to see a bump in workload with RB Marshawn Lynch (groin) sidelined. Richard has just three touches when the team is leading, and 39 touches when tied or trailing, but that is expected to change with just RB Doug Martin standing in the way.
Fantasy Spin: Richard will likely see plenty of targets out of the backfield, as he has shown good hands in the past. Doug Martin is currently projected to be the lead back heading out of the bye in Week 8, but many expect Richard to be the biggest winner in terms of fantasy value in the Oakland backfield.