What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer
Scott Reynolds will be looking for in Tampa Bay’s 2013 season opener at New York against the Jets? Find out in his new weekly column, SR’s Pick 6.
The Buccaneers are in New York to start the 2013 regular season against the Jets. What are the six things PewterReport.com publisher Scott Reynolds is looking for in Tampa Bay’s season opener?1. REMAIN ATOP THE RUN DEFENSE RANKINGS
Tampa Bay’s run defense was the best in the NFL a year ago, allowing just 82.5 yards per game. In order for the Bucs to position themselves for the playoffs they will need another superior, season-long effort by their run defense starting in Week 1 at New York. Rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence will be challenged to stay in his gap and team with Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to shut down the Jets’ ground game.
With Mike Goodson suspended for the first four games of the season, the Jets will undoubtedly try to run the ball against the Bucs with Bilal Powell and Chris Ivory in an attempt to take the pressure off rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who will be making his first NFL start on Sunday. Ivory, who came from New Orleans, was expected to be atop the depth chart in New York, but was unimpressive in the preseason with 28 yards on 14 carries while battling a hamstring injury.
Due to a lack of talented weapons on offense, the Jets will want to control the ball and the clock in an effort to keep Josh Freeman and Tampa Bay’s potentially explosive offense off the field. Head coach Rex Ryan knows his best chance of winning is to try to make the game low scoring rather than getting in a shootout, and will be telling offensive coordinator Marty Morninwheg to run the ball as much as possible.2. PUT PRESSURE ON SMITH
Tampa Bay’s starting defensive line didn’t record a single sack in the preseason, and that’s a concern. The Bucs need Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to push the pocket from the middle and defensive end Adrian Clayborn to return to his rookie form and rush the passer from the edge.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be starting in place of the injured Mark Sanchez for New York and that’s a plus for Tampa Bay. Smith completed 22-of-37 passes for 246 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in the preseason. He was sacked just once, but also gave up a safety by running out of bounds in the end zone. Smith has a good arm and can make plays if he has time to throw.
The Bucs need to be patient and determined with their pass rush on Sunday. Expect the Jets to be in a max protect situation to help Smith by keeping in a tight end and a back in to help chip defenders. 3. UNLEASH THE DOUGERNAUT
Buccaneers running back Doug Martin didn’t even pick up 10 yards rushing on a handful of plays in the preseason. Outside of getting dinged in pass protection against New England, Martin should be fresh and ready to go on Sunday in New York.
Tampa Bay’s offensive line not only must do a better job in pass protection, but they also have to clear running lanes for Martin. Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan knows Josh Freeman is at his best in a play-action passing situation, and you can’t have play-action scenarios without running the ball first. Expect Martin to get over 25 carries and 30 total touches against the Jets.4. FREEMAN MUST EXPLOIT MILLINER
The Jets will be avoiding former New York cornerback Darrelle Revis at all costs because they know he’s the best in the game. Instead, rookie quarterback Geno Smith will be targeting fellow rookie Johnthan Banks whenever he’s in the game at cornerback for Tampa Bay.
The Bucs need to return the favor by attacking cornerback Dee Milliner, who was drafted in the first round to be Revis’ replacement. Milliner didn’t light it up in the preseason for the Jets and may only be starting based on his talent – not his performance. The Jets can’t hide him. He’s either got to cover Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson or Mike Williams, and Josh Freeman needs to exploit that match-up.5. AVOID A KICKING CONTROVERSY
With Lawrence Tynes sidelined with a MRSA infection, veteran Rian Lindell won the Bucs’ kicking contest between he and Derek Dimke in the final preseason game. Lindell, who was signed just three weeks ago, must prove the Bucs made a wise decision in keeping him by being perfect with his in New York.
The NFL is a field goal league as must games are won by three points or less. The last thing the Bucs need is question marks at that position and to have to bring back Dimke or another kicker to challenge Lindell and create uncertainty at kicker.6. GET UP EARLY AND SAVE SOME SURPRISES FOR THE SAINTS
The Bucs vs. Jets contest is a mismatch on paper in Tampa Bay’s favor. The Bucs are clearly the more talented team, especially on the offensive side of the ball. But upsets can happen in Week 1, and the winners of the 2013 season openers are typically the home teams.
The best-case scenario would be for Tampa Bay’s offense to establish an early lead en route to victory. That would take away the Jets’ ground game and force rookie quarterback Geno Smith to win the game for New York, which could result in plenty of sacks and interceptions for the Bucs defense.
Perhaps more importantly, an early lead would allow the Bucs offense and defense to become more generic in nature, and coordinators Mike Sullivan and Bill Sheridan could keep more tricks, wrinkles and new plays in the bag for the Saints next week as they are a much more talented and dangerous team.
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