By Max Luckan
Despite a tough and disappointing loss against the New York Jets last Sunday, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers did display some flashes of brilliance and potential in various facets of the game. However, other areas still need work and the Bucs will need to find their “rhythm,” as head coach Greg Schiano said.
For instance, the Bucs were able to sack Jets quarterback Geno Smith five times over the course of the game, which is encouraging news for defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. Last season, the Bucs lacked a significant pass rush and they are looking to get more pressure on the quarterback this season.
Furthermore, the secondary played a pretty good game against the Jets. Of course, they were going up against a rookie quarterback in Smith, but still, cornerback Leonard Johnson made a few plays, as did safety Mark Barron. And cornerback Darrelle Revis’ impact was felt immediately. Revis broke up a few passes and limited Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes all game long. Johnson definitely took note of Revis’ presence.
“Just having him on the field calms everyone down,” Johnson said via the Tampa Bay Times. “His presence alone puts everyone at their ‘A’ game. He affects everyone and he brings out the best in everyone.” That’s high praise for Revis, whom the Bucs will need to play well against the New Orleans Saints and their prolific offense this Sunday.
And lastly, the Bucs showed some semblance of a functioning offense at times against a very good Jets defense. The most evident example of what the Bucs offense can achieve was the drive late in the game engineered by quarterback Josh Freeman that gave the Bucs the lead with 34 seconds left in regulation. Freeman and wide receiver Vincent Jackson appear to be on the same page, as left tackle Donald Penn noted.
“Vincent was winning all game, he was killing the corners,” said Penn. “We’ve been in those situations before; we’ve got more than enough faith in Josh. I think Josh is better when it’s on the line like that, that’s when his true competitiveness comes out.”
But that’s just about where the positives end.
While Penn was praising Freeman, he also mentioned that Freeman’s “true competitiveness” comes out late in games. However, if the Bucs want to be successful on offense, Freeman will have to consistently play at a high level, which is something that he has repeatedly failed to do, hence why Schiano said the Bucs need to find some kind of rhythm on offense, a synonym for consistency in this case. One would think that the fact that Freeman is in a contract year would wake him up, but early indications are that’s not the case.
If Freeman is able to get it together in the passing game, and maybe complete more than 50 percent of his passes for once, the ground game should open up for running back Doug Martin. Martin was largely ineffective against the Jets because there was no consistency in the Bucs passing game.
Martin didn’t play much in the preseason, so he should find his groove sooner rather than later and he’s already proven that he can be a consistent three-down back for the Bucs.
Freeman on the other hand, still needs to cut down on the ebb and flow in his game. He’s shown that he can play at a high level at times, but against the Jets, that just wasn’t the case.
Freeman isn’t the only issue the Bucs have on offense early in the season. The offensive line isn’t at 100 percent, as left guard Carl Nicks is still injured. And as mentioned before, Martin isn’t in his zone just yet.
But as with any other NFL team, it starts with the quarterback for the Bucs. And Freeman needs to recognize that.
For more Bucs 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.