By: Mike O’Connor, Staff Writer
Gameday is upon us, folks. Here are some essentials to look out for that the Jets must key in on today to beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in what should be a relatively competitive game.
1. Don’t over-focus on Vincent Jackson: Antonio Cromartie is depended on for a reason, and he’s performed well against stud big-framed receivers before. In fact, receivers like Jackson are Cromartie’s forte. It’s the quick-twitch, speed-gear receivers that throw him off. The Buccaneers have other weapons to hone in on, and Jackson will be occupied enough with Cromartie. Any consistent safety help would be spending ill-advisedly.
2. Help Dee Milliner: I’m not fully on board with the rookie getting the start, as I’d rather have the impressive Darrin Walls starting out wide until Milliner is up to speed. However, it appears that the decision has already been made. Milliner will have the daunting task of playing consistent man-to-man coverage on Bucs’ receiver Mike Williams. While Williams might be the second fiddle to Jackson, he’s an intimidating all-around receiver in his own right. Milliner has had his fair share of struggles in the pre-season, and that’s only when he’s been healthy enough to play. When trying to contain a very solid receiver with a rookie who’s bound to be targeted due to the tight matchup on the opposite side of the field, you have a very sticky situation. The Jets must approach with caution before Milliner becomes in over his head. When the Jets play in three safety alignments, it wouldn’t hurt to roll that third safety (likely Josh Bush) directly over to Milliner’s matchup.
3. Don’t hesitate to feed Chris Ivory: Earlier this week, the team officially announced that Bilal Powell would be getting the start today over Chris Ivory. Now, getting the start doesn’t mean that Ivory wouldn’t get a fair share of carries, but it seems like a lackluster move to give Powell even one more carry than Ivory, anyway. It’s understandable that the Jets want to slowly work Ivory back in after his hamstring issues all summer, but keeping him caged up,even if he looks fresh and ready to roll, would practically be trying to lose. When it comes down to it, Ivory is a far more talented runner than Powell, and he’s killed the Bucs in his past with the Saints when healthy. If you’re going to shelter Ivory’s workload all year due to him being injury-prone in general, than there is no point to him even being signed. Powell can do what he does best (a little bit of everything), but Ivory should be looked towards as the grinder if he shakes off the rust early. Besides, this Buccaneers defensive line is a tough one. Beating them up with the run down the stretch is essential to the Jets chances of winning, and frankly, that won’t be done efficiently with Powell getting the majority of carries.
4. Take advantage of interior pressure: The Buccaneers are entering the season without their Pro Bowl guard, Carl Nicks. The Jets have certainly been scheming all week to take advantage of his absence, considering notching interior pressure is something the Jets do best. Muhammad Wilkerson will be active on the defensive line all game against the infamous Gabe Carimi, who was a former first round pick of the Bears, but failed to turn out in his first two years. Wilkerson, one of the best and most versatile lineman in football, should have his way with Carimi. The Buccaneers definitely know this is coming, but there’s really no way to completely erase Wilkerson and the rest of the interior rush. If they double team Wilkerson, this just leaves more favorable matchups for Sheldon Richardson and Kenrick Ellis. Not only should the Jets be successful in this aspect, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Rex Ryan completely ignores blitzing the exterior of the Bucs’ offensive line. If the Jets can run their blitzes through the interior, Josh Freeman will have less time to throw within the pocket, with just as much pressure forcing him to scramble outside the has marks. This is what could control the game. When Freeman exits the pocket, he’s dangerous, but not when under duress. The Jets could feast off turnovers if they run their gameplan on punching the interior of the Bucs’ offensive line, and specifically, Gabe Carimi. You’ve built a strong front, Rex Ryan, but now’s your time to unleash it.
5. Take advantage of the Buccaneers lack of weapons to contain Doug Martin: Doug Martin is beyond just a talented running back; he’s a game-breaker. To make matters worse, the Jets have been guilty in letting explosive backs (Chris Johnson, David Wilson) tear them apart in recent years. The Jets still lack speed on defense, so shutting Doug Martin down is 100% out of the equation. However, they cn build up a gameplan around him.
The Buccaneers’ talent level on offense falls off dramatically after Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. Kevin Ogletree is somewhat of a threat, but Darrin Walls has the upper hand in that matchup. Additionally, the Bucs will be without their underrated and versatile tight end Tom Crabtree, who would be able to spread the field for them. Where am I going with this? Well, without being able to spread the field very much from the slot or through the heart of the field with an even slightly dangerous tight end, the Buccaneers will leave a lot of Jets’ defenders with easier assignments. So easy, in fact, that they should be able to reserve one player to literally spy and trail Doug Martin all game. That man is Demario Davis. Davis has a lot on his plate heading into his second season, and his first handling the starting job. However, they need to use his speed and athleticism for certain situations like the one on hand. With Antwan Barnes and Calvin Pace holding a strong edge of the line, Davis should be able to attack Martin if he breaks outside. If you can reserve one player for a spy role, he doesn’t need to worry about play action. Martin is a tough tackle to make, sure, but having a player like Davis hopefully key in on his every move and attack at will will contain him to an extent that will allow the Jets to win this game.
In a game that should be even up until the end, I’m going to predict some huge turnovers for the Jets when they need them most on defense en route to a 23-17 win. A shaky ship will be righted at the beginning of the season.