Rookie quarterback melts down. That was the story last week for Tampa. We know how they feel. In his first four starts, though, Josh Freeman had looked pretty good for a rookie with a 7 to 5 touchdown to interception ratio. Accuracy had been something of an issue as it is with many rookies. However, Freeman offered a glimpse of what he may become two weeks ago with a 20 for 29 250 yard game against Atlanta. You may remember I was against taking Freeman in the Draft last April because he threw a ton of interceptions in college and seemed to have a high bust factor. He's given the Bucs room for cautious optimism this year.
I tend to think a second straight rough week is more likely than a bounce back this week. This is a really good Jets defense that will throw looks at him he has never seen. He's also going to have to do without his top wide receiver in any likely scenario. Our friends at Buc Em seem to think Antonio Bryant will be able to hold his own against Revis. I respectfully disagree with our friends. As they point out, Revis shut down Andre Johnson and Randy Moss. Is there anything Bryant can do that Moss or Johnson can't do better? I don't think so. I understand the pass rush does aid corners, but the reverse is also true. Part of the reasons the Jets have had so impressive rushing the passer has been that the coverage has held when blitzes have been picked up, which gives rushers extra time to get to the quarterback.
The Bucs will probably have Freeman focus on Kellen Winslow to make his throws safe. Winslow is Tampa's leading receiver with 58 receptions and 633 yards. This could be a game for Kerry Rhodes to reassert himself. I'm not sure I like the matchup between Winslow and Eric Smith. Winslow's way more athletic.
Beyond that, it's not clear what Tampa has in the passing game. Both Michael Clayton and Sammie Stroughter are battling injuries and quite possibly could miss the game, which would leave Maurice Stovall and his 18 receptions in the starting lineup. With Revis on Bryant, the Jets can scheme their coverage around Winslow because Lito Sheppard should be able to handle his assignment without much help.
Another problem will be protection. Tampa Bay's tackles, Jeremy Trueblood and Donald Penn, and center Jeff Faine are all in the top seven at their position in terms of pressures allowed. This could force the rookie to make a lot of mistakes. Guard Davin Joseph in in the top five while Jeremy Zuttah is in the top fifteen. It's a young line that is still a work in progress.