I had the opportunity to ask Joe Bussell five questions about the upcoming match up between the New York Jets and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Joe used to work for the Buccaneers as their Special Events & Operations Manager. Now he runs a website and has an extremely informative twitter account where he discusses his his philosophy and musings on football. Joe is one of my absolute favorite follows and I highly encourage you to check him out as well. He knows what he's talking about.
1. What do you expect to be the best characteristic of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season, whether it's something on offense, defense, or special teams?
I think everyone is aware of Doug Martin and the Buccaneers' potential to have an explosive run game with a solid offensive line leading the way for Martin. The characteristic I expect to see from the defense is a more tenacity and physicality on defense. Darrelle Revis comes from a defense where, in Rex Ryan's words, it's encouraged to hit hard and if a guy misses a tackle, no big deal because he has his buddies behind him to finish off the tackle. Adding Dashon Goldson was a major addition in my opinion. He's physical and flies all over the field. The Bucs will attack the ball on defense. I'm excited to see how that plays out for them.
2. If you were game-planning against the Buccaneer's offense and defense, what would you do?
If I'm the Jets, I load the box, play a ton of cover 1 or cover 3. The object is to make Josh Freeman prove he can beat me and not let the run game get rolling. The problem is that both Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams are tough to cover one on one and this essentially leaves the corners out on an island against them. Antonio Cromartie's size will help against Vincent Jackson but Jackson is one of the best receivers at getting the ball at its highest point and coming down with it. I'm hesitant about leaving Dee Milliner or Kyle Wilson alone on Mike Williams but this is a matchup where they might come down with an interception and I can live with a couple bad coverages in that case. Up front I would test the integrity and chemistry of the Tampa Bay offensive line with some stunt and overload blitz concepts that will make them think and perform physically at the same time (this is something I highly suspect the Jets' defense to do because they love these principles). Last year, Freeman made some terribly poor throws and decisions when pressured or given the illusion of pressure. Even just making it look like the rush might get to Freeman might induce some turnovers.
On offense, I'd test the ends versus the run. Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers are noted pass rushers but if they get overly aggressive I'd run some stretch plays and draws in their direction to see how they react. In terms of passing, I'd use a ton of levels concepts to put stress on the linebackers in coverage. That may be the only weak point in the Bucs' defense right now. Levels concepts are something that will also overload an area of the field which will help Geno Smith focus his reads and get through his progression more efficiently. I'd especially attack the SAM linebacker (either Dekoda Watson or Jonathan Casillas) as they're probably the weakest link in the defensive chain.
3. This is Josh Freeman's fifth year. There was some talk that he's fallen out of Greg Schiano's favor of late; is this a make or break year for him? As a corollary, is Mike Glennon the future?
It's certainly a make or break year for Josh. He's in a contract year and this is his time to show whether he can be the QB of the future or if his only consistency is being inconsistent. In my opinion, I just don't see it in Mike Glennon. I think he's an interesting pick in that he is very similar to Freeman in skill set and abilities and if Tampa was to make the switch from Freeman to Glennon they wouldn't have to modify the offense much - as opposed to going from a guy like Michael Vick to Nick Foles who have very different skill sets. Glennon didn't show in the preseason that he's ready for this level yet. If he's going to be the future, he needs time to adapt. At this point, it's too early to tell.
4. The Darrelle Revis trade was one of the biggest stories of the off-season. Does it look like the Buccaneers will use him as the Jets did? How does he fit into the defense?
The Bucs used a lot of stunting up front last season to try to create pressure. Schematically, that was about the most creative they got. I hope to see Head Coach Greg Schiano and Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan create some more extensive pressure packages now that they have a toy like Revis who helps protect them on the back end. The Jets would leave Revis out on an island one on one versus a team's best receiver (especially when that receiver was lined up to the wide side of the field) and would shade a single high safety over top of the receiver on the other side of the formation or over the tight end if he was the explosive type. They'd walk the other safety down inside the box to help chip the tight end off the line of scrimmage or provide support against the run. It was essentially a way to help guard against the run without increasing any risk to the pass coverage. It's a win-win situation. The Bucs would be smart to adopt a similar plan, in my opinion.
5. Is this a lose-lose game for the Buccaneers? It seems almost everyone is so unbelievably down on the Jets that if the Buccaneers lose, their season will start off as a colossal disaster, but if they win, well that's what they should have done anyway.
I wouldn't call it a lose-lose game, but I certainly think this is a trap game for the Bucs. Turnovers always have a major impact on the game but this is a game where I think the Jets defense is so good at creating turnovers that the Bucs might be better off playing it safe and letting the Jets make a mistake first. I would be completely fine with the Bucs running the ball excessively early in the game even if it isn't effective just to guard against turning the ball over. I think both teams will want to run the ball and the first team to come up with a touchdown off a turnover or an explosive special teams play will put the opposing team in a predicament where they'll need to throw the ball more than they want. That could lead to serious problems when one team is forced to put the ball in the air a lot.