Who: New York Jets vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When: 1:00 p.m. EDT
Where: MetLife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Media: TV – Fox, DirecTV – 713, Radio – ESPN N.Y. 98.7 FM, Sirius – 128, Sirius XM – XM 228, Internet Audio – Audio Pass.
Their Previous Meeting: The last time these two teams met, Mark Sanchez was viewed as a beacon of hope and Darrelle Revis was doing Darrelle Revis things in Green and White. This was only four years ago, in 2009, when the Jets traveled to Tampa to take on the fledgling Bucs team that was 1-11. In stark contrast to today’s game, there was a lot of concern about Sanchez who had sprained his PCL the previous week in a win over the Buffalo Bills. With Sanchez unwell, the Jets named Kellen Clemens the temporary starter. His performance wasn’t inspiring as he completed 12 of his 23 passes for 111 yards and a few head-scratching throws. Even so, Clemens did enough to effectively manage the game while the scoring opportunities were entrusted to Jay Feely and Thomas Jones, both of whom did not fail to deliver. Ranked second overall in defense, the Jets frustrated the Bucs for the entire game as Tampa was held without a third down conversion and only one fourth down conversion. Feely got things started in the first quarter as he put the Jets ahead with a 40 and 24 yard field goal. He continued in the second scoring from 49 yards twice. In between, Thomas Jones scored on a 33 yard run. The Jets would be shut out in the third quarter while the Bucs tacked on a 43 yard field goal, their only points of the game. The Jets put the exclamation on their lead with Jones running seven yards for a score in the fourth. The Jets won 26-3.
Jets: LB Nick Bellore (Oblique–Probable), G Willie Colon (Knee/Shoulder–Probable), DE Quinton Coples (Ankle–Out), CB Antonio Cromartie (Hip–Probable), DT Leger Douzable (Illness–Probable), G Vlad Ducasse (Calf–Probable), NT Kenrick Ellis (Back–Questionable), WR Clyde Gates (Shoulder–Probable), LB Davis Harris (Hip–Probable), NT Damon Harrison (Knee–Probable), WR Stephen Hill (Knee–Probable), WR Santonio Holmes (Foot–Questionable), T Ben Ijalana (Knee–Probable), WR Jeremy Kerley (Finger–Probable), CB Ellis Lankster (Foot/Hamstring–Probable), CB Dee Milliner (Achilles–Probable), QB Mark Sanchez (Right shoulder–Out), QB Matt Simms (Calf/Oblique–Probable), QB Geno Smith (Ankle–Probable), TE Kellen Winslow II (Knee–Probable), and G Brian Winters (Ankle–Probable).
Buccaneers: TE Tom Crabtree (Ankle–Out), T Demar Dotson (Back–Probable), RB Mike James (Eye–Questionable), RB Erik Lorig (Calf–Questionable), CB Rashaan Melvin (Hamstring–Doubtful), G Carl Nicks (Foot–Out), and CB Darrelle Revis (Knee–Probable).
Jets: QB Mark Sanchez, LB Danny Lansanah, G Will Campbell, T Ben Ijalana, T Oday Aboushi, LB Quinton Coples, and LB Scott Solomon.
Buccaneers: TE Tom Crabtree, DE William Gholston, DT Chris Jones, G Carl Nicks, CB Rashaan Melvin, QB Dan Orlovsky, and FB Erik Lorig.
Jets Game Captains: WR Santonio Holmes, WR Clyde Gates, WR Jeremy Kerley, WR Ryan Spadola, TE Kellen Winslow, and WR Stephen Hill.
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After weeks of change, competition and anticipation, the regular season finally opens this afternoon as the Jets take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in their home opener. Only four years ago, excitement surrounded a rookie quarterback, the enigma known as Mark Sanchez. After a series of unfortunate events, there’s a new rookie who is inciting a similar sense of excitement and hope in Geno Smith. A shoulder injury that Sanchez suffered in the preseason now puts Smith as the starter and it will be interesting to see how he responds after an up-and-down training camp.
By all accounts, the Jets are supposed to lose this match-up but the Buccaneers aren’t exactly invincible. Granted, their defense was bolstered with the additions of key pieces such as Revis and Dashon Goldson but with new faces comes growing pains which could present some opportunities for Geno. Offensively, the Bucs have Doug Martin who is projected to do big things however, the Jets will look to counter that threat with their defensive line, a focal point for Rex Ryan and Dennis Thurman following Revis’ departure. Holding Martin back and forcing Josh Freeman to throw will be a key to defeating Tampa.
Similar to Sanchez, Freeman’s leash in Tampa has just about run out. He looked uninspiring in limited playing time during the preseason and has played inconsistently overall in the past four years. Antonio Cromartie, who stepped up his game to another level in Revis’ absence, inherits the leadership role in the secondary as he looks to help the rookie Dee Milliner neutralize the passing game. While Milliner is likely to be tested early, it’s important to see how he responds. He certainly has all the tools, now it’s just a matter of mastering his craft.
The real question will come down to the linebackers and safeties. The Jets have a balancing act with Quinton Coples sidelined following ankle surgery. Garrett McIntyre is listed as the starter but we’ll likely see several players throughout the game as the Jets try to tailor their personnel to the Buccaneers’ formations. At safety, it was a close competition between Jaiquwan Jarrett and Antonio Allen however, Allen is, for now, the starter and it will be interesting to see how he and Dawan Landry mesh in the backfield. Allen made quite a few impact plays in the preseason and he’ll have to continue to build on that and carry it over.
Offensively, the biggest issue will be the quarterback play. Geno looked good early on before an ankle injury that has seemingly thrown him off kilter and magnified some of the weaknesses scouts noted throughout the draft process. It may not be pretty but Smith will at the very least get some on-the-job experience which is the only true way to master his craft. Marty Mornhinweg’s offense emphasizes passing and while the Jets may like to be a little bit conservative, they also need to air it out. There’s no question Geno has the arm strength but it will come down to him making the proper reads and limiting footwork mistakes.
The Jets will have Bilal Powell at running back. He’s not flashy but he has developed into a solid overall player that will likely get a lot of looks. While Chris Ivory wasn’t exactly inspiring in the preseason, he figures to see a few carries as the Jets look to wear out the Bucs defense. While Santonio Holmes is questionable, he could see his first action of the year which would be huge for the team. He would be complimented by much-improved receivers Stephen Hill and Clyde Gates. The largely dependable Jeremy Kerley will also be in the fold along with rookie Ryan Spadola who could get some burn if Holmes is either out or limited throughout the game.
A lot of folks, fans included, are not only writing off this game as a loss but the entire season. On paper, it’s easy to view this team with a dose of skepticism but there’s just so much that is unknown and that goes for a lot of teams in this league. The Eagles were supposed to have fielded one of their best teams in 2011 but were a .500 team that missed the playoffs. Is that to say the Jets are going to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl? No. But I do think a lot of people are severely underestimating the amount of talent on this team. The best part? To paraphrase Rex, the talking ends today and the Jets get to go out and prove themselves.