The Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the New York Jets, 18-17 in the first game of the regular season. The Bucs started and ended the game with terribly sloppy play, and that has resulted in poor game grades for most of the units.QUARTERBACKS
Josh Freeman started the game with communication issues, resulting in wasted timeouts. Then, on an early snap from center Jeremy Zuttah, Freeman had to kick the ball out of the end zone resulting in a safety. And after that, Freeman was under pressure all game long. Most of his success came on quick slants to wide receiver Vincent Jackson because it was all he had time to do. On their first touchdown drive, Freeman strung together a few nice plays, capped off by a great throw to Mike Williams between two defenders for the touchdown. But there were still too many balls throw inaccurately to allow the Bucs to put any breathing room between the Bucs and Jets, coming back to haunt Tampa Bay in the end.
After that drive, the Bucs and Freeman struggled to find a rhythm. Freeman’s worst mistake of the game came on an overthrow that was intercepted. The Jets turned that pick into a touchdown and the momentum shifted for the rest of the game.
Even with the poor offensive line play, Freeman was able to drive the Bucs downfield for the go-ahead field goal with under a minute left in the game. Freeman, as he did much of last year, did enough for the Bucs to win this game. But, somehow, the defense found a way to give the win away.
Freeman ended the day 15-of-31 for 210 yards, with one touchdown and one interception and was sacked three times.GRADE= CRUNNING BACKS
Not only did the offensive line struggle in pass protection, but they gave Doug Martin zero room to run all game long. Martin only needs a tiny crease to be able to wiggle into the open field, and he didn’t have that at all. Aside from the touchdown run and a draw play in the fourth quarter, Martin was non-existent.
You can’t really blame the running game’s struggles on Martin. He did everything he could with what was given to him, although he did have a couple dropped passes. Martin finished the game with one touchdown and just 65 yards on 24 carries, which is an average of just 2.7 yards.GRADE= C-WIDE RECEIVERS
Vincent Jackson was the only bright spot on offense against the Jets, spending much of the game against his former teammate Antonio Cromartie. Jackson won that battle and ended the day with seven catches and 154 yards, including a huge play to get the Bucs into field goal range.
Mike Williams wasn’t as involved in the game as Jackson, but did make a nice catch for a touchdown, and ended the game with four catches and 52 yards. No other wide receiver had a catch in the game, although Kevin Ogletree was targeted twice and dropped a great pass from Freeman late in the game.GRADE= CTIGHT ENDS
It almost seemed like the Bucs didn’t have any tight ends playing against the Jets. The blocking was poor, and no one was able to create separation in the passing game. Their only completion came on a drop off pass to Nate Byham for four yards. Luke Stocker, who is running out of chances, was invisible all game. Tom Crabtree could have that starting position when he gets back from his injury. GRADE= FOFFENSIVE LINE
The offensive line play was so terrible it seemed like none of the starters were playing, instead of just missing Carl Nicks. While Nicks is a big piece missing, his absence is no excuse for their performance against the Jets. Guard Davin Joseph, who is coming back from a knee injury, did not look like himself against New York. He failed to create any movement in the run game and was also called for a drive-killing holding call.
Left tackle Donald Penn, who is in the best shape of his career, was definitely not playing like it. He got beat on a number of plays in the pass game and gave up at least one of the sacks on Freeman.
Center Jeremy Zuttah made the second worst play of the game when he snapped the ball to Freeman before he was ready, resulting in a safety. The Bucs probably would have won the game if it weren’t for that play early in the game. On top of that, Zuttah was also called for a false start and failed to create any push in the run game.
Guard Gabe Carimi, who is in for Nicks, was just as mediocre as the rest of the line and could hardly hold his own in pass protection. Carimi did have nice block on the Doug Martin touchdown, but other than that played poorly. Right tackle Demar Dotson was called for a false start and was also poor in pass protection. GRADE= FDEFENSIVE LINE
A huge question mark coming into the first game was how the defensive line would perform. They answered by chasing rookie quarterback Geno Smith all over the field, all day. Gerald McCoy was in the backfield on most of the plays despite the attention the Jets gave him. McCoy ended the game with just two tackles, but can be credited with several incomplete passes. Rookie nose tackle Akeem Spence also had a solid debut, nabbing two tackles and a fumble recovery.
Defensive end Daniel Te’o-Neshiem, who won the starting position over Da’Quan Bowers, had a good game with one sack and three tackles (two for a loss). Bowers, who is trying to prove he can be an every down player, also had a good game with a tackle and two quarterback hits. Bowers was getting pressure pretty consistently when in the game.
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who is coming back from a knee injury, had a great game with three tackles (one for a loss) and two quarterback hits. Clayborn was getting good pressure all game, which is a great sign because the Bucs really need him to step up this year if Bowers struggles.
As a whole, the defensive line picked up where they left off last year in terms of run defense. They tackled very well and only allowed 43 yards on the ground from the Jets’ running backs.
The main issue with the defensive line was that without blitzing, the front four struggled to create their own pressure. Geno Smith had too much time to throw the ball when the Bucs weren’t blitzing, which resulted in a lot of Smith’s success. GRADE= BLINEBACKERS
The linebackers had both a great game and a terrible game against the Jets. As a unit, they nabbed four of the five sacks the Bucs had. Middle linebacker Mason Foster had two of those sacks, one of which resulted in a forced fumble, leading to a Tampa Bay touchdown. Foster’s eight tackles on the day along with those two sacks, but struggled in the passing game. Foster got beat several times through the air, including on the Jets’ touchdown pass.
Dakota Watson, who beat out Jonathan Casillas for the starting strong side linebacker position, had a solid game with three tackles and a sack. Watson and Casillas shared the field, and Casillas had a good game, nabbing four tackles along with a forced fumble.
Lavonte David was having a fantastic game until his last play of the game. He had eight tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss, two broken up passes, and one interception. But all of those great plays were forgotten when he hit Geno Smith after he stepped out of bounds, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and putting the Jets in field goal range to hit the game-winner. It was a terrible play by a terrific player that played a huge part in the loss, but for those who saw his face after the play, you know he is taking it harder than any fan out there. GRADE= CSECONDARY
The Buccaneers’ revamped secondary was in full effect on Sunday. Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis looked like he did last season before tearing his ACL, which should have fans extremely excited. Revis had two passes broken up and only allowed one catch for 13 yards against him.
Leonard Johnson, who led the team with nine tackles, had one of the most costly mistakes of the game when he was called for a holding penalty. The penalty gave the Jets a first down when their drive should have been over, but instead got the go-ahead field goal.
The Bucs main free agent signing, safety Dashon Goldson, had a few huge hits against the Jets’ receivers, sending three of them off the field. However, one of those monster hits resulted in a killer 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. Safety Mark Barron was also called for an unnecessary roughness call later in the game. Both calls were questionable, as it didn’t deem like wither player led with their head.
By looking at Geno Smith’s stat line (24-for-38, 254 yards, one touchdown, one interception) it might look like the secondary struggled against the rookie. But most of the big plays given up by the defense were on the linebackers for poor coverage. The secondary was very solid all game, with the exception of the costly penalties. GRADE= BSPECIAL TEAMS
Connor Barth’s replacement was a big question mark during training camp, but Rian Lindell came in late to win the job. Against the Jets, he hit a clutch 37-yard field goal that should have won them the game.
Punter Michael Koenen had a great game with an average of 46.6 yards per punt, pinning the jets inside the 20-yard line three times. Eric Page was solid as a punt returner, including a nice 28-yard return. GRADE= A-
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