By Max Luckan
The regular season opener for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets is just a few days away. While it’s still early in the season, both teams aren’t completely healthy, which will cause both sides to make some adjustments and do some shuffling in the starting lineups.
The Jets could be without many key starters for Sunday’s game, while the Bucs might be without their starting left guard Carl Nicks. The Jets have a few injuries on the defensive side that could benefit the Bucs, specifically quarterback Josh Freeman, come Sunday if those players aren’t able to play.
Nicks did not practice again on Thursday for the Bucs, which doesn’t sound very promising for his status on Sunday. In all likelihood, the Bucs will be without Nicks at the left guard position for the first game of the season.
Gabe Carimi has been getting most of the first-team reps in practice at Nicks’ usual position, so it appears that he will likely get the start there in this week’s game. Carimi has mostly played on the right side of the offensive line in his young career, but he feels that he’s ready to step in if he’s needed.
“I feel pretty good going into this week for sure,” Carimi said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve got two great guys around me, experienced guys [center Jeremy Zuttah and tackle Donald Penn], and they’ve been in the system so they’ve helped me out.”
Left tackle Donald Penn visibly struggled during the preseason, so he and Carimi will have to step up to ensure that the left side of the offensive line can protect the quarterback if Nicks can’t play, which seems to be the case.
Rookie cornerback Rashaan Melvin has been hampered by a hamstring injury and hasn’t been able to practice all week, according to Bucs head coach Greg Schiano. That means that rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks will have to step up and might see extended play time. The Bucs plan to use Banks in the nickel package, mainly, but with Melvin likely out, Banks should get some extra snaps on defense.
Meanwhile, tight end Tom Crabtree, who severely sprained his ankle in the final preseason game, also hasn’t practiced, so third-year tight end Luke Stocker will probably start in his place.
Bucs running back Mike James and fullback Erik Lorig have both been limited in practice, so their statuses are uncertain. And cornerback Darrelle Revis has been fully participating in practice, so it looks like he will, indeed, start against his former team on Sunday.
The Jets aren’t as fortunate as the Bucs injury-wise. Defensive tackle Kenrick Ellis has been limited in practice due to a back injury and his status is up in the air. If he’s unable to play, that could aid the Bucs’ rushing attack and running back Doug Martin because Ellis has been playing well on the defensive line.
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie has also been limited in practice with a hip injury, but he’s expected to play in the opener. However, he may not be as effective in pass coverage, so look for the Bucs and quarterback Josh Freeman to test Cromartie early.
On the offensive side of the ball, Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes did not practice on Thursday because of a foot injury, but his absence was scheduled, Jets head coach Rex Ryan told the media. Holmes’ foot injury isn’t expected to keep him out of the season opener, but he may still be limited.
Outside linebacker Quinton Coples hasn’t practiced for New York because of an ankle injury and his status for Sunday’s matchup remains in limbo. The Jets are suffering a bit on the defensive side of the ball in terms of injuries, but they do have some depth at cornerback and linebacker, which will allow others to step up against the Bucs.
Rookie quarterback Geno Smith has been fully participating in practice and he will be ready to go as the starter against Tampa Bay in what should be an intriguing matchup.
For more news and updates, visit Bucs Central.
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. Max is a freelance writer covering all things NFL. His work can be found on Examiner.com.