By Max Luckan
Surprisingly, the New York Jets quarterback controversy will only be the second biggest headline this Sunday when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town. Of course, the biggest headline will be Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis and his return to New York, where he played for the first six seasons of his career. And barring a setback, Revis will play against his former team, according to Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. For the Jets, rookie quarterback Geno Smith is expected to get the start as the 2013 NFL regular season kicks off.
The Jets finished the 2012 regular season with a lowly 6-10 record and missed the playoffs in what was a hectic and chaotic season all around. But just like any other team, the Jets will start off this season with a clean slate and will look to get that all-important first win of the season against the Bucs.
Jets on Offense
Rookie second-round draft pick Geno Smith is slated to start for the Jets on Sunday with Mark Sanchez still hampered by a shoulder injury, so the Bucs won’t know what to expect from the Jets offense.
Last season, the Jets finished 30th in the NFL in total offense and they are hoping that they can take a significant step forward this season with Smith at the helm.
Third-year running back Bilal Powell will likely start in the Jets backfield and will split carries with running back Chris Ivory, who was acquired from the New Orleans Saints via trade in the offseason. This two-pronged attack will give the Jets more variation than in past seasons, which should aid the running game.
New Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg prefers the passing game and is a fan of Smith, so expect the Jets to throw the ball much more than last season. But then again, head coach Rex Ryan is very run-oriented, which the Jets hope will make for a decent balance between run and pass.
Jets on Defense
With linebacker Bart Scott gone and new defensive coordinator Dennis Thurman in place, the Jets defense will also look much different than last season’s squad.
Primarily, the Jets got younger on defense with the additions of rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and rookie cornerback Dee Milliner via the draft. New York, now, has two aggressive corners in Milliner and veteran Antonio Cromartie, which should improve their pass defense, which was already solid last season, even more.
Against the run last season, the Jets struggled mightily, which was one of the main reasons why they went and drafted Richardson, who will join nose tackle Kenrick Ellis in the middle of the defensive line.
Jets Players to Watch
Geno Smith: It will be interesting to see how the rookie quarterback performs in his first NFL start, especially now that the Bucs improved their secondary with the additions of Revis and safety Dashon Goldson.
Dee Milliner: On the flipside, Milliner will make his first NFL start for the Jets on defense and will either be matched up with wide receiver Mike Williams or wide receiver Vincent Jackson. Either way, that’s no easy feat for a rookie.
Sheldon Richardson: Richardson is another rookie making his first regular season NFL start and he will be tasked with stopping Doug Martin and the Bucs running game, which won’t be easy, especially if Bucs guard Carl Nicks is healthy enough to play.
All-time, the Bucs have a 1-9 record against the Jets. Both teams want to get off to a fast start this season, but the Jets still have many uncertainties on the offensive side of the ball and a rookie starting at quarterback. The Bucs will look to take advantage of that fact and come out on top.
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Max Luckan lives in Tampa, FL and is a sports writer covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and NFL. Luckan has been covering the Buccaneers for a few years now. You can find more of his work at Examiner.com.