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Head Coach Jon Gruden not ready to bench Dexter Jackson

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...UPDATE...

DJax has put his foot in his mouth while defending the perception that he shys away from hits:

"It's not the case at all," the rookie said. "I take hits. I'm not going to take hits that are not necessary. I see a lot of guys who are returning runs out of bounds when guys are coming. Look at Reggie Bush (of the Saints). It's (about) longevity in football. I just try to play hard." - St. Pete Times

Come on little buddy, you can't be serious can you? First of all, EVERYBODY sees you cowering prior to the hit. Granted its not on every return, but it occurs on 78% of them. Secondly, Reggie Bush? He's been in the league three years kid. Plus he's battled injuries. It makes sense for him to get out of bounds, you though? Not so much. Don't go down this road, do you really want the fan base to turn on you? The majority already have. Just play hard with reckless abandon and don't respond to the accusations. You will always lose when attempting to silence the critics with chatter, do it on the field brother. Come on man... Just remember the fans want to see you succeed, but they dont want to see you run East & West while losing yardage, and like it or not they take notice of you cowering down. It's pathetic, especially when players like Michael Clayton and Ike Hilliard lay it on the line over the middle in way worse circumstances.... You got a lot to learn my man.

Hat tip to Scott from BucStats.com for the link...

Despite the outcries Head Coach Jon Gruden is not ready to give up on second-round draft pick in PR/KR man Dexter Jackson:

"I’ve given an awful lot of thought to [making a change at returner]," Gruden said. "We’ve got some candidates we’re looking at and we’ll evaluate it throughout the course of this week. We’ll try to put two or three guys in there under game-like situations and try to improve it. But I still think Dexter Jackson is a promising player, a talented guy. We haven’t given up on him. We are not giving up on him. But we will evaluate who is able and who is active, who will give us the upgrade that we’re looking for there.’’ - Tampa Tribune.

I admire Gruden’s determination to stick with Dexter Jackson. Despite the constant clamor to bench, release, and/or trade the Rookie Gruden holds strong; which is wise considering we’re not even half way through the season. The guy clearly looks like a Rookie. There aren’t many Rookies in this league that step in and pay immediate dividends. I understand that his draft status raises the bar for the production and time frame in which this athlete is expected to produce, but I’m glad Gruden isn’t willing to bury him on the bench just yet.

Unlike recent years Gruden does have a bevy of players to choose from in the event that he wants to sit DJax for a game, provide him with competition, or provide him with a running mate. The most exciting option is fellow Rookie in CB Aqib Talib. Talib returned punts in College so the task is not foreign to him. He possesses the necessary speed to excel in the position. I think his greatest strength on the field would prove to be his greatest asset as a return man and that’s his confidence. The guy has a ‘Prime Time’ player type of mentality. You could see it when he returned a Kickoff last week just ahead of DJax and you can get a sense of it when he’s interviewed. I guess Monte Kiffin won’t let Gruden get close to his Rookie CB in order to give him an audition.

Option #2 for me would be Practice Squad RB/KR Clifton Smith. You could see in the Pre-Season that he knew what to do with the ball when he got an opportunity. He would probably be the toughest option to get into the role considering his addition would mean a subtraction would need to be made on the roster to accommodate him. There’s a rumor that he might join the team in Dallas this weekend due to increased reps in practice this week, but Clifton said himself the increase was due to Warrick Dunn being injured. Those are the only two options I would get excited about. Michael Clayton can do the job (Kick Returning) and do it well enough, but you know he’s never going to break one when he’s looking to lower the shoulder rather than escape a tackle. The Phillip Buchanon suggestions peeve me as well, because if he was decent at the task wouldn’t he already be doing it? I understand he’s a starting CB and certainly is more valuable there, but so is Michael Clayton when you look at the Wide Receiving depth. I just said Michael Clayton is valuable… Come on DJAX, MAN UP SON! Stop cowering at the sight of contact and just run north and south. So long as you don’t fumble you should make it through the season relatively unscathed.