Jac is back – and just in the nick of time for the Buccaneers.
Defensive end Jacquies Smith declared himself healthy and ready and to play on Wednesday, and hopes to help in the pass rush department this Sunday when Eli Manning and the 0-3 New York Giants come to town. The Giants’ offensive line has come under fire for its poor play this year and surrendered eight sacks in the first two games, although Manning wasn’t sacked in last week’s loss at Philadelphia.
“No doubt about it,” Smith said. “I pride myself on playing on Sundays. I’m not going to sit here and tell you any kind of story. I think for me to go out there and prove consistently that I’m ready to go at practice and proving to the coaches that I’m ready to go. I don’t make those decisions on Sundays. They do.”
Tampa Bay’s defense has logged just one sack in the first two games of the season, and failed to get to Minnesota quarterback Case Keenum in Sunday’s 34-17 loss to the Vikings.
Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith admitted that he was concerned about his unit’s inability to rush the passer and have success.
“It’s a concern,” Smith said. “If you look at the game last week there were a lot of seven-man protections. We probably could have done a better job in terms of what I wanted to present against those seven-man protections. It is a concern. This is about affecting the quarterback. Sacks aren’t the only number. It’s getting him off a spot. It’s hitting him. Obviously we have not had the sack numbers we’d like, but these are the guys we’ve got and we’ve got to coach them up and get them going. We have to do a better job schematically putting them in position where they can put pressure the quarterback.”
The Bucs have had just one sack in 79 pass attempts. The metric the team is looking to achieve is one sack for every 14 pass attempts. If Tampa Bay had hit on those statistics in the first two games the team would have at least five sacks by now.
Smith missed virtually the entire 2016 campaign after tearing his ACL on the fourth play of Tampa Bay’s season-opening win at Atlanta and then missed the entire offseason rehabbing the injury. Smith was hoping to return by training camp, but needed another procedure on his knee, which kept him out of camp and the preseason.
With defensive end Noah Spence, who has Tampa Bay’s lone sack this season, hampered by a dislocated shoulder and blitzing linebacker Lavonte David out several weeks with a sprained ankle, the Bucs could use Smith’s ability to rush the passer. Smith was the second-leading sacker in Tampa Bay in both 2014 and 2015 when he totaled 13.5 sacks and four forced fumbles in that two-year span and is looking to make an instant impact if he is active on the 46-man game day roster on Sunday.
“For me to sit here and say I’m not itching to go and I’m not ready to go on Sunday, I wouldn’t tell you a lie like that,” Smith said. “I’m ready to go.”
Smith returned to practice a few weeks ago and was set to make his 2017 debut at Minnesota but succumbed to the flu bug that hit One Buccaneer Place over the last two weeks and was inactive.
“I caught a bad break last week,” Smith said. “This is a new week. I’m just going to go out there with the opportunities I get and do what I need to do.”