Can Vincent Jackson get faster?

Al Messerschmidt

Vincent Jackson is a Pro Bowl wide receiver.  In his two years with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he has amassed over 1,200 yards each season.  He has eclipsed over 1,000 yards five times in his nine year career.  Vjax, as he is affectionately known to many Bucs fans, signed with the Bucs in 2012 for five years worth $55.55 million.  With three years left on his contract, we Bucs fans can continue to expect great things from Vjax.

And yet...  I feel as though he can give more.  Recall the following video where Vjax had a 95 yard reception.  This is no single event.

While browsing through many articles online about the draft, SBNation has a great article on the 2014 NFL draft about wide receivers. In the article is this great nugget by Bill Walsh:

"Pure speed is helpful, but full-stride speed becomes important. You would like a receiver with the ball in the open field to be able to keep the separation with the closing defenders until he gets over the goal line. He doesn't have to outrun them. He doesn't have to gain ground on them. He just has to get there before they do so he scores. So it doesn't have to be sprinters' speed, but full-stride speed.

"A good example of that was Mike Quick when he was at Philadelphia. He had just an average 40 time, but once in the open field the long strides gave him the functional speed to stay away or get away from defenders. Dwight Clark, believe it or not, was never caught from behind once he got into full stride. Now he used the field to weave and bend, but he was never caught. And Jerry Rice will never be caught from behind by anyone if they both have the same, basic starting point.

"Now there have been other people who have been Olympic sprinters who get tangled up and can't get back into full stride quickly enough and somebody just comes up and overwhelms them from out of nowhere. If they catch the ball and there is any contact at all, by the time they get back in running stride, the people have closed on them. Full-stride speed is the key."

The question that begs is what exactly is full stride speed? According to www.scienceofrunning.com, speed is a product of stride length and stride frequency. To improve speed, one can increase the length of a stride, increase the frequency of the stride or do both. You can read their article here.

Standing at six foot and five inches, Vjax cannot be expected to increase his stride frequency due to his height and build.  He could try to increase the number of steps in the same distance, but having long legs would make that a bit difficult to adjust.  Yet, increasing his stride length in that same distance may help improve his speed.  This is what I believe Walsh meant in "full stride" speed.

Now would be a good time to view that NFL.com link again where Vjax gets caught from behind.  With the enlightenment of stride length and stride frequency to determine speed, you can look at Vjax's stride as well as compare it to Malcolm Jenkins, the player who caught Vjax from behind.  From that video, it looks as though Vjax's stride is stubby.  Then look at Malcolm's stride.  Notice how his strides look longer than the strides Vjax has along with the frequency of strides.  Malcolm also starts behind the point where Vjax caught the ball and had to traverse diagonally to reach Vjax.

My observation is simply visual and developed with information from the sources listed in this article.  I have no idea if Vjax can improve his speed.  But if Dwight Clark was never brought down from behind (although, I have no idea if this is true except that Walsh says so), then I can expect Vjax can also learn this trait to improve his speed as well as increase his touchdown statistics.  Long bombs that conclude in touchdowns sometimes are back breakers.  That is one aspect that I hope Vjax can improve upon as it is a demoralizing action for the opposing team.

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