With the first full Sunday of the 2013 season in the books it’s time to look closer at the performances and storylines from Week 1. One such storyline took place in New York where Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Darrelle Revis returned to face a Jets team that traded him away just a few months ago.
Neither team has received much love in the lead up to the season with few predicting a trip to the playoffs for either. That’s likely in no small part due to the concerns around both teams’ quarterback situations, with the Jets starting second-round draft pick Geno Smith, and Tampa Bay still trying to find out if Josh Freeman is the long-term answer at the position.
With a late drive, the Jets were able to pull out the win, with the assists going to Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David, who put them into field goal range with a late hit penalty on Smith. The final score alone doesn’t tell the whole story however, so let’s take a look at the key performances from this Week 1 encounter.
Tampa Bay — Three Performances of Note
Start As You Mean To Go On… Maybe not.
Buccaneers fans will hope their first offensive drive of the year isn’t a sign of things to come, such was the calamity of errors that marred their first offensive series on Sunday. Things started off well enough, with Freeman hitting Vincent Jackson for a long first down on a slant route on 3rd-and-1 with 13:51 left in the opening quarter, beating Jets rookie cornerback Dee Milliner inside and leaving him trailing. That’s as good as it got, however, and just two plays later communication issues began to take their toll.
With a problem with Freeman’s helmet preventing the signal-caller from receiving the play, the Bucs were forced to burn a time out before the embarrassment of two consecutive delay of game penalties. That brought them to 2nd-and-20, where Antwan Barnes easily beat tight end Luke Stocker to the outside to sack Freeman for a 10-yard loss. It didn’t end there, with right tackle Demar Dotson committing a false start on the next play before a 2-yard screen pass put them out of their misery, forcing them to punt on 4th-and-33.
Return of the King
When Revis was traded to the Buccaneers, it instantly made this encounter all the more appealing. Arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, at least when healthy, the biggest question was how far back he was from the injury that ended his 2012 season so abruptly. Well, if this game was anything to go by, he’s just fine. The Jets went after him early, clearly eager to see if he was up to the challenge but, after throwing into his coverage four times in the first 20 minutes of the game, they avoided him from there on out.
Finishing the game with two pass breakups, the only receptions he allowed came as a result of a teammate blocking him out of the play. When all was said and done, he ended the game with an overall PFF grade of +2.6, and allowed an average of 0.34 Yards Per Coverage Snap.
Poor Pairing at Guard
Though watching the game you would have heard the commentators make reference to how good it is for the Buccaneers to have Davin Joseph (-3.2) back in the line up, PFF readers know that rumors of Joseph’s stellar play are one of the great myths in today’s NFL. The good news is that Carl Nicks will be back at some point, especially considering how his replacement, Gabe Carimi (-1.2) played on Sunday. Both were perfect in pass protection but were routinely beaten as run blockers. Carimi’s biggest struggles came against the second of the Jets’ first-round picks this year, Sheldon Richardson (+2.3), who started his NFL career off with a bang, posting a Run Stop Percentage of 16.7%
New York Jets – Three Performances of Note
Success Up Front
While Richardson took Carimi to task on a regular basis, the Jets’ front seven in general put on a stellar display. Surprisingly, it was only Muhammad Wilkerson (-3.2) who failed to impress after his monster season a year ago. The defense combined to register four sacks, a hit and 10 hurries, but it was against the run where they really stood out. Limiting Tampa Bay to 57 yards on 25 carries, 24 of which came on two Doug Martin runs, they missed just one tackle against the run. It was clear from the outset that their plan defensively was to shut Martin down and force Freeman to beat them and they executed it to perfection, leaving a wall of green in front of Martin on every rushing attempt. There are plenty of concerns for Jets fans this year, but if the unit can look this good with their star player having his worst game in some time, this won’t be one of them.
Good and Bad from Geno
When the Jets drafted Geno Smith (-0.8) in the second round, it gave fans hope that the Mark Sanchez Era would finally be coming to an end. The end may come even sooner than expected with Smith leading the team to an opening day win after being thrust into the starting line up to start the year. Like you’d expect from a rookie QB, his first start was filled with good and bad. He lost extra yards on a sack by running backwards on 1st-and-10 with 2:33 left in the first half, turning an already bad play into an 18-yard loss. However, with the game on the line, he came up with two big plays to put the Jets in range for the winning field goal. Finding Kellen Winslow with 29 seconds left gave them a chance, but when he scrambled to the right on 2nd-and-10 14 seconds later, Tampa linebacker Lavonte David (+1.9) made the biggest error of the game, hitting Smith late as he went out of bounds and gifting the Buccaneers the extra 15 yards they needed to seal the deal.
Mixed Results at Offensive Tackle
Normally, the performance of right tackle Austin Howard (+4.2) would be a story enough on its own, with the former undrafted free agent producing a Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 97.0, allowing just two total pressures. His play against the run (+2.6) was even better, with him being one of just three Jets — and the only offensive lineman — to finish the game with a positive run blocking grade. Topping it all off, he had two nice blocks on screens to top off one of the most complete performances you’ll find from Week 1.
Unfortunately, the bigger story may actually be the struggles of D’Brickashaw Ferguson (-2.8), who looked nothing like the player who finished last year as our sixth highest-graded left tackle. Allowing five hurries, he struggled heavily as a run blocker and was guilty of committing two penalties. It’s just the opening week, but Jets fans will be hoping this was a one-off and not a sign of things to come.
– The Bucs and Jets combined to miss just 10 tackles on the day.
– On passes that traveled 10 yards or more through the air, Josh Freeman only completed three of 12 passes for 78 yards.
– Geno Smith recorded just 25 of his 256 yards through the air on plays where he was under pressure.
PFF Game Ball
Smith will get the plaudits for his game-winning drive, but it was the play of right tackle Austin Howard that really stood out as you watched the game. He finished last season strong and continued here in Week 1. The question now is if he can put it together over a full season.
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