By Tom Krasniqi
The stage is set for Sunday’s season opener at Metlife Stadium. The game plan is in place. With training camp and the preseason now behind them, the Buccaneers are about to begin their quest to respectability.
On Sunday, the Bucs open the 2013 season on the road against the New York Jets. Expectations are high after another busy offseason but questions remain. Is the offense good enough to succeed? Will Josh Freeman take his play to the next level? Where’s the pass rush coming from? Is Darrelle Revis going to be same dominant player before the ACL injury?
Plenty of questions indeed. The offense struggled in the preseason but many players cautioned the fans about what the preseason is all about. “It’s preseason,” wide receiver Vincent Jackson said. “We definitely went out there and tried to execute some of the things that we implemented, but we’re going to be very vanilla in the preseason – not show our hand as far as what we have in our bag of tricks. But now that the gloves are off and we’re ready to go ‘full-speed ahead’ and it’s no holding back. We’re going to be very aggressive, and I think this offense can be very successful this year.”
The Bucs offense hopes to get off to flying start against Jets head coach Rex Ryan and his aggressive defense. “For us as an offense, it’s about identifying where the blitzes are coming from, where they’re trying to bring the pressure, picking it up; after you identify it, you’ve definitely got to be able to block it up, give Josh some time,” Jackson said. “Of course, as receivers, as tight ends and running backs, we’ve got to be there and get our eyes around so Josh can get rid of the ball [so] he doesn’t get beat up too much back there. So we know about it, we’ll continue to look through it [and] work on it this week. I think we have a good game plan ready.”
Many national so-called experts are down on the Bucs but that’s just fine with head coach Greg Schiano. “It doesn’t matter to me, really. The 61 guys in that locker room and the twenty-some-odd coaches upstairs and everybody in the organization – our GM, our ownership – that’s the important thing,” Schiano said on Friday. “It’s not where you start, it’s where you end, and that’s what we’ve got to take care of. We’ve got one game at a time, 16 one-game seasons; [we’ve got to] take care of that, and, as you can probably tell, I’m kind of excited to get going.” So is everyone else. Time to play.
Here’s the final injury report: Revis has been listed as a ‘full participant’ in practice all week and is set to make his Bucs debut against his former team. He’s listed as probable. RB Mike James (eye) and FB Erik Lorig (calf) were again limited and are questionable. LG Carl Nicks (foot), TE Tom Crabtree (ankle) are out. CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring) is doubtful. RT Demar Dotson popped up on the injury report on Friday with a back problem but he’s listed as probable.
The Jets have 21 players on the injury report. WR Santonio Holmes (knee) was limited in practice on Friday and is questionable. Former Bucs TE Kellen Winslow practiced in full on Friday and is probable. Among the other notables: LB Quinton Coples (ankle) and QB Mark Sanchez (shoulder) are both out. DT Kenrick Ellis (back) is questionable. CB Antonio Cromartie (hip), CB Dee Milliner (Achilles), QB Geno Smith (ankle), G Willie Colon (knee/shoulder), G Vlad Ducasse (calf), LB David Harris (hip), WR Stephen Hill (knee), DT Damon Harrison (knee) and WR Jeremy Kerley (finger) are probable.
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