The New York Jets will bring the number one ranked rushing offense into Raymond James Stadium on Sunday. The Jets will attempt to bolster their ranking when they take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who have the 31st rated run defense in the NFL. New York is averaging 169 yards per game, and the Bucs are allowing an average of 160 yards per game. Buccaneers head coach Raheem Morris was asked what makes the Jets such a dangerous ground game.
"What they do is they really get bigger," Morris said. "They put in a bunch of tackles a bunch of extra guys in there to go block and they run the football. Thomas Jones is explosive. Shonn Greene is explosive. They had a young back before he went on [injured reserve] that is very explosive, a young man from Florida State [Leon Washington]. They have been playing well. They have been running the ball well, and they are a good football team. It is the same old deal. You go play Miami and they were number three in rushing, or whatever they were. You go play Carolina and they were number two, or whatever they were. Now here comes number one. It is another challenge for this young football team, and another challenge for us."
After demoting coach Jim Bates, Morris took over the play calling and game planning for the defense. In his first game leading the unit Tampa Bay held the Atlanta Falcons to 75 yards rushing. Entering last Sunday's game with the Carolina Panthers, the Buccaneers had allowed the Panthers to have 566 yards rushing in the last two games. On Sunday the Bucs gave up 157 yards rushing to Carolina. The Panthers' Jonathan Stewart had 120 yards rushing on 26 carries with one touchdown. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry. Morris sees some improvement though in run defense despite Stewart's strong stat line.
"You just got to give the guys a lot of credit," Morris said. "They've gone out there and they've really bowed up. I know Carolina came out and Jonathan Stewart still rushed for 120 yards, but he really had 80 in those first two drives. They kind of got it started and they bowed up and they started to play well. That's just a credit to the guys. They're playing better, they're doing better, they're fighting and they want to win. It's just a credit to the guys."
Buccaneers middle linebacker Barrett Ruud said the missed tackles were what led to the good runs that Carolina had against Tampa Bay. Ruud felt that the Bucs were in the right defensive calls and had the proper scheme to stop the run. This week Ruud has some familiarity with what he will see out of the Jets dating back to his college days.
"They are a really good run team. Actually I went against it a lot in college. Bill Callahan is their run game coordinator and he was my coach in college," Ruud said. "It is all the same stuff that he was doing then except they are doing it with a little better players. (Guard) Alan Faneca, (center) Nick Mangold, and (running back) Thomas Jones those guys are really good players, and they got a great scheme and they are really running the ball well."
Callahan was the head coach of the Oakland Raiders when Tampa Bay defeated Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII. The Jets will be leaning heavily on the ground game against Tampa Bay. New York is starting backup quarterback Kellen Clemens. The 6-foot-2, 221-pound Clemens has started eight games in four seasons in the NFL, completing 51.7 percent of his passes for 1,569 yards and tossing five touchdowns and 11 interceptions. New York has the 30th ranked passing offense in the NFL.
"It doesn't matter how much a team throws, if you can stop the run it makes everything a lot better," defensive end Tim Crowder said. "Our main thing to do is stop the run. The Jets are the number one rushing team in the NFL. We got to stop the run."
Leading the Jets rushing attack is veteran running back, and former Buccaneer, Thomas Jones. Jones (5-10, 212) is New York's bell cow back. This season he has carried the ball 239 times for 1,068 yards (4.9 avg.) and nine touchdowns. Rookie RB Shonn Greene (5-11, 226) has 65 carries for 312 yards (4.8 avg.) and two touchdowns. Tampa Bay outside linebacker Geno Hayes thinks that Jones and Greene will be a physical
"Those guys are tough runners. They have a great offensive line in front of them," Hayes said. "They are downhill runners. They run hard. They run tough, and they just fight for extra yards."
Jones played for the Buccaneers in the 2003 season when he served as the backup to Michael Pittman. In his one season with Tampa Bay, Jones had 627 yards rushing and averaged 4.6 yards per carry with three touchdowns. After the season, Jones signed with the Chicago Bears in free agency. He has been with the Jets for the past three seasons after getting traded to New York from Chicago. Jones has five straight seasons of running for over 1,000 yards.
Stopping Jones will be tall order for the defense. However, Buccaneers safety Sabby Piscitelli sees the Jets game as an opportunity for the defense to build for next season.
"We got four games left and four games to establish our identity," Piscitelli said. "We got a challenge in front of us with the top rushing offense in the NFL, so we are excited to get out there and take on that challenge. To change our momentum to stopping the run in these last four games and rolling right into [next season]. You don't want to go into the offseason on a bad note."
Hayes, Winslow Return To Practice
Tampa Bay received some encouraging news on the injury front Thursday when starting weakside linebacker Geno Hayes and tight end Kellen Winslow had full participation at practice at One Buccaneer Place.
Hayes and Winslow were limited during Wednesday's practice with a hamstring and knee injury, respectively.
"It is getting better day by day. We are just being cautious with it," Hayes said Thursday. "Nothing really bad happened to it, so we are just letting it rest."
Although he was hoping to return to action today, Bucs wide receiver Michael Clayton missed practice again Thursday due to the knee injury he sustained in Atlanta nearly two weeks ago. Should he not be able to play vs. the New York Jets, Bucs WR Maurice Stovall would start in Clayton's place.
In addition to Clayton, Bucs cornerback Derrick Roberson (groin) was held out of practice for the second straight day. His injury doesn't appear to be as significant since Bucs starting CB Aqib Talib, who missed last Sunday's game in Carolina due to a hamstring ailment, isn't even listed on the team's injury report this week.
"Talib is a funny guy," said Bucs head coach Raheem Morris. "He fought through that injury for about five weeks and then at the end of the Atlanta game it forced him out of one. He's a tough guy when it comes to that. He's dedicated and doing everything he can to get back. He's back to full practice. It hasn't slowed him down. He won't let you take him out of practice. He's just one of those guys that loves playing and loves practicing."
On the official injury report the New York Jets had four players not participate: quarterback Mark Sanchez (knee), guard Robert Turner (knee), cornerback Dwight Lowery (ankle), and guard Alan Faneca (illness). Limited in practice was defensive end Shaun Ellis (knee). The Jets had four players with full participation in practice on the injury report: cornerback Marquise Cole (knee), cornerback Donald Strickland (concussion), safety Jim Leonhard (thumb), and linebacker Calvin Pace (shoulder). Ruled out has been linebacker Larry Izzo (neck).Toys For Tots Drive At Ray-Jay On Sunday
Bucs fans attending Tampa Bay's home game vs. the New York Jets at Raymond James Stadium on Sunday are encouraged to participate in the Glazer Family Foundation's "Toys for Tots" Drive.
The Glazer Family Foundation and the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve will collect new, unwrapped toys at the yellow collection stations outside all gates and club entrances at Ray-Jay until the end of the first quarter of Sunday's contest.
Your donations are greatly appreciated. Quote of the DayBucs head coach Raheem Morris when asked if he had any sense that Jets head coach Rex Ryan was shutting down rookie QB Mark Sanchez with the idea that 6-6 New York is good enough without him to defeat 1-11 Tampa Bay.
"I don't know what Coach Ryan is thinking. It's not my job to determine that. We're just trying to go out there and get a win. I don't think they're sitting comfortable enough where they can do something like that. That's his decision as a head coach. If he really wanted to show me something then shut down [running back] Thomas Jones. He's the lead dog of that offense."
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