Gang Green Nation's fearless leader John B has been air dropped into the greater Tampa Bay area for a classified mission. As a consolation prize, you get a steaming, heaping pile of Bro this week. Enjoy.
As camps open and the regular season grows closer, GGN will be taking at look at some of the Jets opponents in the 2013-14 season and how these teams have changed for better or worse. We will look at notable additions, departures, and storylines for these franchises for the upcoming football year. Let's kick off the feature with the Jets very first opponent in a matchup rife with storylines; the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Believe it or not the Jets and the Buccaneers are pretty similar in terms of performance, the sharpest contrast between the two is the larger NY market and the Buccaneers winning the big one much more recently. Both teams have one lone Super Bowl appearance that resulted in victory. Both teams have accrued long tracks of losing records and are typically (at the very best) second bananas in competitive divisions. Both franchises have underperforming embattled passers who are very unlikely to have long term futures with their current teams. You could probably get away with labeling both teams as snake bitten.
Perhaps the strongest parallel is that both teams have enormous questions in the secondary after BIG shake ups. The Buccaneers got the most talented corner in the game provided he can be healthy. The Jets got a rookie CB and DT in the same round out of the deal. Rhonde Barber has retired after very much of an up year, leaving a gap in talent and experience. Under-performing and overpaid (but underrated) CB Eric Wright was just earlier today traded to the San Francisco 49'ers for a conditional late round pick. While there is little doubt the Jets will miss Darrelle Revis sorely on the field, the Bucs also have huge question marks in the secondary that they are trying to answer through fresh faces. It's very likely that in week 1 of the regular season both teams will have exploitable secondaries that struggle to reestablish their identity in the first game.
Josh Freeman and Mark Sanchez both stink. Freeman is slightly better and not so ridiculously paid. Both men are being challenged by early to mid-round picks from this years draft. Neither man is truly secure in his employment with their team. Whether the embattled quarterbacks are replaced by their young peers or not, both teams will likely struggle to effectively move the ball in the air. Mike Glennon and Geno Smith will give their respective teammates a run for their money.
The Buccaneers receiving corps looks kind of garbage on paper, until you look at the Jets roster depth behind Santonio Holmes who will almost surely miss the start of the season in my humble opinion. The Jets are starved for receivers, while the Bucs have solid 1 and 2 guys in Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams. All the remaining Bucs receivers are either unproven UDFA's, late round picks, or Derek Hagan. Zach Miller plays at tight end for the team, but not the Zach Miller you're thinking of. This Zach Miller is nothing to write home about. Some guy named Luke Stocker is allegedly the Bucs starting TE. He produced a whopping 1 (one) touchdown and 257 yards on the season last year. The only rookie addition to the tight end pool for the Bucs was a UDFA named Tim Wright.
Neither team is anything to laugh at when it comes to the defensive line. The team has the likes of Gerald McCoy serving as a bedrock on the line, with disappointing prospects like Da'Quan Bowers struggling to stay relevant on the team. Derek Landri should be a sound addition on the Bucs DL, while rookies William Gholston and Steven Means will fight for a chance to have an impact in their first year.
Behind the DL, neither team has anything to brag about regarding their linebacker corps. With the exceptions of veterans Lavonte David and Mason Foster, the Buccaneers LB's are a collection of late round and UDFA nobodies who will have little to no contribution. Outside of a mediocre David Harris, the Jets have nothing proven except for dead weight behind their defensive line. Coples is a promising but risky move.
With the return of Carl Nicks to the Bucs after a very rare injury marred season, both Tampa Bay and the Jets will have quite a bit of push up front. Expect both teams to improve their performance from last year on the o-line, barring any major injuries or setbacks for either team.
My parents say I'm Special Teams.
The Jets will remain in a holding pattern with their slate of special teamers. Connor Barth has met an early end to his season and is now on injured reserve. Lawrence Tynes will replace him from the looks of it. Barth isn't that great but an aging Tynes is definitely not an improvement. This could benefit the Jets in a potentially low scoring defensive game.
Tampa Bay traded LeGarrette Blount to the New England Patriots in exchange for Jeff Demps and a 7th round draft pick. Blount is a hard hitting talent but never delivered anything spectacular for Tampa. Demps is a UDFA who briefly was with the Pats for a while. First round pick Doug Martin will probably be the Bucs answer to Chris Ivory, who looks to be headed for top back on the Jets depth chart. The Buccaneers have many lower-round talents to rotate, including this years addition of Mike James, a sixth round pick who looks unspectacular.
The Talking Heads...
Greg Schiano is a tough and polarizing coach who will be directly responsible for winning and losing some games for his team with his calls. Rex Ryan has bravado and very similar erratic performances as a coach that can be both a blessing and a liability. Both men are strong coaches in spite of their faults. There I said it.
John Idzik, who cut his teeth in Tampa Bay, will try to right our ship at home while Bucs Gm Dominik is arguably very much on the hot seat, especially if the Revis deal goes anywhere south for the team. Both teams coaches must tread carefully, although I think Schiano's seat is substantially less hot.
One last interesting note, the Buccaneers just added former Jets Assistant GM Scott Cohen to their personnel as an adviser. Although there was virtually zero concern of Cohen returning after the Jets let him go and Idzik made the FO his own, this can help the anti-Cohen crowd to rest at night. This is one move I do not envy Tampa Bay for.
Neither team will be at the top of their division this year. The Buccaneers have a lot to build on and have made more improvements to their team and shored up more holes than the Jets have, although in defense of NY between the cap and the sheer amount of needs, the Jets never had a shot at keeping up.
It's way too early to predict an outcome (come back for my previews in the regular season) or even a victor. There's way too much up in the air for both teams. A lot of it depends on the likes of Revis or even Holmes being ready for the opener. The former is probably much more likely. I will say that the pieces appear to be falling into place for the Bucs, although being in the stacked NFC South will seriously test their ability to hang with the big dogs. Both teams still have growing pains, and either the Jets or the Buccaneers could use a Week 1 victory to launch a surprising breakout season. Not holding my breath, but I will take a sip of that Kool Aid if you don't mind sharing. The July heat is getting to me.