On paper, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a very good offense unit. Doug Martin, Vincent Jackson, Carl Nicks and Davin Joseph are among the best players in the NFL at their positions, while other players such as Mike Williams and Donald Penn are very capable. With Josh Freeman at quarterback, the Bucs ranked in the top half of the league in most offensive categories last season.
However, things will not be so easy for them against the New York Jets on Sunday. There are several reasons why the Jets will be successful, beginning with their defensive line. Muhammad Wilkerson is rapidly becoming one of the premier 3-4 ends in football, and he demands a double team at all times. Wilkerson on his own is more than capable of creating a pass rush, but he will have help.
Sheldon Richardson is a very explosive player at the other end spot, and the rookie will be looking to impress in his debut. Rex Ryan has assumed defensive play-calling duties once again, so the Bucs can expect to see a heavy dose of blitzes, especially the overloads that Ryan favors so much. The Jets’ pass rush looked much improved in the preseason, and they want to continue the momentum.
Only four quarterbacks threw more interceptions than Freeman last season, and he has a career long track record of turning the ball over under pressure. Cornerbacks Antonio Cromartie, Dee Milliner and Kyle Wilson will put heavy pressure on the receivers, forcing Freeman to squeeze the ball into tight windows. Cromartie in particular is an excellent ball hawk, and there is very good chance he will end up taking at least one Freeman pass back the other direction.
In the run game, mammoth defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis will anchor the defense, and at 6’4, 346 lbs, moving him off the ball is no easy task. Ellis will swallow up blockers, creating opportunities for inside linebackers David Harris and DeMario Davis to shut down Martin before he ever gets going. Harris has been one of the top run-stopping linebackers in the NFL for years, and Davis has the sideline to sideline speed to pursue ballcarriers everywhere.
The Jets need a strong defensive performance, because their offense is not going to put up many points. Shutting down Martin is priority #1, and if the Jets can force the ball into Freeman’s hands they will have a better chance. The Jets had the 2nd ranked pass defense in the NFL last season, and they want to continue that success. They believe that they can pressure Freeman into turnovers, and if they can get a takeaway or two, they will have a very good chance at starting the season with a win.