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Game Day: Buccaneers at Jets

Posted Sep 8, 2013

Tampa Bay kicks off its 2013 regular season on Sunday with a road game against the New York Jets...Prepare for the game with our preview, including injury reports, key matchups, series history, players to watch and more


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open their 2013 season on Sunday with a game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  Both teams bring a 0-0 record into the game; the Buccaneers were 1-3 during the preseason while the Jets were 3-1.

 

In their second season under Head Coach Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers are trying to build on a promising 7-9 campaign in 2012 in which the offense set single-season franchise records for yards gained and points scored and the defense ranked first in the NFL against the run.  QB Josh Freeman became the first quarterback in team annals to break the 4,000-yard mark and RB Doug Martin had one of the top rookie seasons by a runner in NFL history, with 1,926 yards from scrimmage.  Vincent Jackson, a key 2012 free agency acquisition, fell just 38 yards short of the team's single-season record for receiving yards and led the entire NFL with 19.2 yards per catch.  The Buccaneers believe the offense can further improve on that encouraging start under Coordinator Mike Sullivan, and Jackson thinks Freeman is the quarterback to make it happen.

 

“[Josh] is running the show, and we have the utmost confidence in him," said Jackson.  "He’s made some great strides this offseason, just becoming more familiar with the system, making sure we know the calls and making sure the running backs know who they’re picking up, and hot protections – making sure guys are lined up where they’re supposed to be. Just his maturity level, and his understanding of what’s asked of him and what’s expected of him – he’s really embraced that. I’m excited for Josh; I think he’s going to have a great year. He has great pieces around him; he’s got a solid defense over there. As an offense, we just want to be consistent; want to take care of the football. I think that’ll be key for us.”

 

Martin and Jackson both ended up in the Pro Bowl last year, as did rising star defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.  McCoy anchored a defense that allowed just 82.5 rushing yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry.  That was countered by a league-worst pass defense ranking, but the team made a massive effort to correct that issue during the 2013 offseason.  In came CB Darrelle Revis (via trade), safety Dashon Goldson (via free agency) and cornerback Johnthan Banks (via the draft).  The Buccaneers hope that those upgrades will not only limit the opposition's big plays – a particular problem last year – but also give the defensive front a little more time to get to the quarterback.  That group will be helped by the return of end Adrian Clayborn, who missed all but three games last year due to a knee injury, and the arrival of fourth-round pick DT Akeem Spence, who is now starting at the tilt-nose position.

 

“We have to [perform]," said McCoy.  "We have to or the secondary, all the money we put into it and the guys we brought in, all the talent we have behind us won’t matter. So we have to set the tone. It starts with me being the leader up front.  If I get rolling, everybody gets rolling. It’s my job.  I took it upon myself to set the tone and bring everybody with me. That’s just our goal for not just this week, but for every week and then that high-powered secondary behind us can flourish."

 

The Buccaneers may have dramatically revamped their secondary, but the Jets have made a change at the one position that most affects a team: quarterback.  West Virginia's Geno Smith came aboard with a second-round pick and was thrust into a battle with incumbent Mark Sanchez, a first-round pick just four years ago.  The competition essentially ended, at least for the season opener, when Sanchez suffered a shoulder injury in the third week of the preseason.  Thus, Smith will start in his NFL debut on Sunday, and he's ready to seize the opportunity.

 

“Every single challenge that I’m faced with I’ll just take head on," he said.  "That’s what I’ve tried to do with this thing. So far it’s been good to me. Like I said, I’ve been progressing, I’ve been steadily getting better, and I’m going to continue to grow and get better as a player. But to finally be named the starter – it means a lot to me to be a part of this organization, having teammates and coaches who have faith in me, and it also means that I've got to go out there and produce and live up to what everyone expects of me. I look forward to it.”

 

On defense, the Jets will likely be led by their front, which includes rising third-year end Muhammad Wilkerson (5.0 sacks and three forced fumbles last year) and 2013 first-round DT Sheldon Richardson.  The prevailing storyline out of New York is that Head Coach Rex Ryan will take charge of the defensive play-calling and dial up the blitzes and the overall aggression.  Behind that front, while the loss of Revis is a big one, the Jets reloaded with Alabama CB Dee Milliner in the draft to play opposite accomplished CB Antonio Cromartie.

 

**

 

SERIES HISTORY

 

The Buccaneers’ winning percentage of .100 against the Jets is their worst against any opponent in the NFL.  Since a 34-0 win by New York during Tampa Bay’s inaugural 1976 season, the Jets have won nine of 10 meetings, broken up only by Tampa Bay’s 41-21 win at Tampa Stadium in the 1984 season finale.  The Buccaneers have gone the longest since beating the Jets than any other team in the league.

 

The most recent meeting between the two teams was a 26-3 New York win in Tampa on December 13, 2009.  Tampa Bay’s last trip to New York to face the Jets came in 2005, when they advanced to the 34-yard line in the game’s closing seconds but were unable to get off a field goal during a 14-12 loss.

 

**

 

INJURY REPORT

 

Below are the official injury reports submitted by both teams on Friday afternoon.  There are the official definitions of the game status designations, as provided by the NFL: Players marked as "Out" definitely will not play; for a player marked as "Doubtful," there is a 75% chance he will not play; for a player marked as "Questionable," there is a 50/50 chance he will not play; for a player marked as "Probable," it is a virtual certainly that he will be available for normal duty.

 

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Game Status

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Out

RB Mike James

Eye

Questionable

FB Erik Lorig

Calf

Questionable

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Doubtful

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Out

CB Darrelle Revis

Knee

Probable

T Demar Dotson

Back

Probable

 

Jets:

Player

Injury

Game Status

LB Nick Bellore

Oblique

Probable

G Willie Colon

Knee/Shoulder

Probable

LB Quinton Coples

Ankle

Out

CB Antonio Cromartie

Hip

Probable

DE Leger Douzable

Illness

Probable

G Vlad Ducasse

Calf

Probable

DT Kenrick Ellis

Back

Questionable

WR Clyde Gates

Shoulder

Probable

LB David Harris

Hip

Probable

DT Damon Harrison

Knee

Probable

WR Stephen Hill

Knee

Probable

WR Santonio Holmes

Foot

Questionable

T Ben Ijalana

Knee

Probable

WR Jeremy Kerley

Finger

Probable

CB Ellis Lankster

Foot/Hamstring

Probable

CB Dee Milliner

Achilles

Probable

QB Mark Sanchez

Right Shoulder

Out

QB Matt Simms

Calf/Oblique

Probable

QB Geno Smith

Ankle

Probable

G Brian Winters

Ankle

Probable

TE Kellen Winslow

Knee

Probable

 

**

 

BUCCANEER PLAYER TO WATCH: DT AKEEM SPENCE

 

Rookie Akeem Spence acknowledges that he’ll have a few butterflies in his stomach as he prepares to start in Sunday’s opener against the New York Jets, but deep down he feels he belongs atop the depth chart – although that confidence took a while to grow.

 

Spence started every game he played while in college at Illinois – an impressive 38 straight outings – but he knew earning a starting job in the NFL would be an entirely different challenge.

 

“The last time I didn’t start was my redshirt freshman year [in college], but ever since then, I’ve been out there taking all my snaps,” said Spence, who was drafted by the Buccaneers in the fourth round in April. “I played three years in college, but to come here and start and accomplish that goal, I thought it was crazy.”

 

One person who didn’t think an opening-day start was such a far-fetched notion for Spence was General Manager Mark Dominik, who was quoted saying as much before training camp even began.

 

“When Mark Dominik said he sees me as a starter for 16 games, I wasn’t too sure about that,” Spence said with a laugh. “But coming to camp and working hard to accomplish that goal, that’s big. Now I just have to work to keep that starting job, practice hard every day, execute and stay on top of things. Don’t slack, don’t be complacent.

 

“Now I finally believe [Dominik]. Coming in, I was so horrible at the technique, didn’t know what I was doing, barely knew the defense. I was like, ‘This guy’s crazy. He wants me to be a starter for the Buccaneers for 16 weeks? I don’t see it.’ But going through camp I started to get comfortable with the defense and I started seeing myself progress. Working with Gerald [McCoy] and working day-in and day-out, it’s paying off.”

 

The turning point, Spence says, came in the Bucs’ third preseason game against Miami in which he routinely penetrated the Dolphins backfield and notched three tackles for loss.

 

“Definitely after the Miami game is when everything started to click,” Spence said. “The technique, my hand placement, everything started to click. I was going against [Dolphins center Mike] Pouncey, one of the best centers in the league, and I was like, ‘Ok, I can do something in this league here with this defense.’ Everything just clicked and now I’m just taking it and running with it.”

 

With his confidence now at a high level, Spence says he almost has to rein himself in a bit as the anticipation builds for his first-ever NFL game.

 

“I’m going to be ecstatic,” Spence said with a grin. “I’m going to try to stay calm and take the same mentality I always have, but Gerald told me, ‘You’re going to lose it, because I lost it when I had my first start.’

 

“I’m going to try to stay calm, but I’m going to try to do my best.”

 

**

 

KEY MATCHUP: BUCCANEERS CB DARRELLE REVIS vs. JETS QB GENO SMITH

 

Yes, we’re going the obvious route with this one, but the potential battle between veteran cornerback and rookie quarterback – if Smith chooses to enter into it – neatly sums up the game’s biggest storylines.  The Buccaneers acquired Revis from the Jets in a blockbuster trade in April believing he could be ready to play by opening day, which was serendipitously scheduled to take place in Revis’ old stamping grounds.  Revis did in fact stay on that timetable, and he’s set to open up at left cornerback on Sunday.

 

Meanwhile, the Jets used the pick they acquired from the Buccaneers to draft defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, and then addressed the quarterback situation early in the second round.  Smith was still on the board, and his selection created the aforementioned competition with Sanchez.  That battle decided (at least for Week One), Smith now gets the pleasure of opening his NFL career with Revis on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage.

 

Will Smith even bother to test the side of the field commonly known as “Revis Island?”  If so, will it cost him, or will he be able to work around the wily veteran?  And if he does choose to stay away from Revis, will Smith find less room to work on the other side of the field, as was the Buccaneers’ hope when they traded for the former Jet?

 

Whichever player has the best debut for his new team – the rookie Smith or the veteran Revis – will probably end up on the winning side of the final score.

 

**

 

TEAM RANKINGS (2012)

 

The Buccaneers and Jets have yet to prove themselves in 2013, but both teams had some noteworthy strengths and weaknesses last season.  Tampa Bay had the league’s best rush defense and was among the best teams at protecting its quarterback, while the Jets had the second-best pass defense in the league and the 12th-best rushing attack.  Meanwhile, the Bucs struggled to stop the pass while the Jets had the third-worst offense in the NFL.  Here’s where each team ranked in some of the league’s key statistical categories:

 

OFFENSE

BUCS RANK

JETS RANK

Points Per Game

13

28

Yards Per Game

9

30

Rushing Yards Per Game

15

12

Average Per Rush

11

23

Passing Yards Per Game

10

30

Sacks Allowed

3t

27

Interceptions Thrown

22t

28t

Third-Down Efficiency

23

20t

Punt Return Average

19

12

Kickoff Return Average

30

6

 

DEFENSE

BUCS RANK

JETS RANK

Points Per Game

24

20

Yards Per Game

29

8

Rushing Yards Per Game

1

26

Average Per Rush

1

21

Passing Yards Per Game

32

2

Sacks

29t

25t

Interceptions

8t

23t

Third-Down Efficiency

24

12

Punt Return Average

24

27

Kickoff Return Average

25

5

 

OTHER

BUCS RANK

JETS RANK

Turnover Differential

12t

29

Penalties Per Game

14t

4

Gross Punting Average

22

21

Net Punting Average

28

23

Field Goal Percentage

16

27

 

**

 

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

 

  • RB Doug Martin has 11 career rushing touchdowns and needs only three more to pass LeGarrette Blount (13 from 2010-12), and Doug Williams (13 from 1978-82) for 10th most in franchise history.
  • QB Josh Freeman has 12,963 career passing yards and needs seven more to surpass Trent Dilfer (12,969 from 1994-99) for second-most in team history.
  • Freeman has 1,101 career passing completions and needs 17 more to surpass Trent Dilfer (1,117 from 1994-99) for second-most and 26 more to pass Vinny Testaverde (2,160 from 1987-82) for the most in team history.
  • WR Mike Williams has 23 career touchdown catches and with one more he will surpass Bruce Hill (23 touchdown catches from 1987-91) for sixth-most in franchise history.
Williams has 2,731 career receiving yards and needs 112 more to crack the top 10 in franchise history by passing Lawrence Dawsey (2,842 receiving yards from 1991-95).

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