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Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson must build chemistry


"NFL Total Access" kicked off its 32 teams in 32 days series this week. Around the League will write an accompanying post each night, focusing on one goal that each team needs to accomplish before Week 1. So far we've handled the Colts, Rams, Vikings and Browns.

Josh Freeman, Vincent Jackson must build chemistry

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were the early darlings of free agency, and for good reason. Carl Nicks, arguably the finest guard in the league, was inked to a five-year, $47.5 million contract. The team also added former San Diego Chargers wideout Vincent Jackson.

We all know about Greg Schiano's desire for a ground-and-pound running game. LeGarrette Blount and rookie Doug Martin will earn their supper, but the NFL is a passing league. The NFC South -- especially with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton on hand -- will make it tough to go old school.

The air attack must sing, but the Josh Freeman Project fell off a cliff last season. It didn't help that Tampa Bay's defense melted away down the stretch, but Freeman's third NFL campaign -- which opened with so much promise -- was a step back. It's not clear what the Bucs have in Freeman, who threw 22 interceptions to just 16 scores. He often appeared frustrated and lost.

Schiano can't fix this team's issues in one offseason, but if Freeman and Jackson can build a connection, Tampa Bay will be a different team on offense in 2012. It's no sure thing -- too many big-name free-agent wideouts seem to fizzle away. Jackson, of course, isn't playing with Philip Rivers anymore, but Freeman isn't the problem child we saw last season, either. He's never had this type of weapon at his disposal.

On the downside, if they can't get it going -- if defenses don't believe in the Freeman-Jackson duo -- Schiano's precious running attack will be keyed upon and suffer.

That is just one of many challenges ahead for this young Bucs team.

Follow Marc Sessler on Twitter @marcsesslernfl.


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