Dec 30, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Williams (19) catches a pass for a touchdown in the first half against the Atlanta Falcons at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports
The Buccaneers first regular season game is just days away. Tampa Bay will head to the Meadowlands to take on the New York Jets Sunday at 1PM EST. There will be plenty to watch in the first meaningful game of the year, but we’re here to give you five players you really want to keep our eyes on Sunday afternoon.
Mike Williams – The first game off the big contract is always a big one for players. They always want to go out and prove they are worth every penny the team decided to give them. However, Williams’ role in this game will be crucial for a different reason, because top WR Vincent Jackson will draw the coverage of Antonio Cromartie. Williams will have to come up with some big time plays to relieve some of the pressure Cromartie is putting on Jackson and Freeman. Expect to see him targeted at least 8 or 9 times, and expect the ball to be going his way on third downs where the Bucs really need to convert. Jackson isn’t going to disappear, but Williams will be the more impactful receiver in Week 1.
Darrelle Revis – This one should go without saying, but it would be criminal writing an article on who to watch in a Buccaneers/Jets game and not name Darrelle Revis. Revis will likely be matched up with Santonio Holmes who is coming off the injured foot. However, the biggest part of Revis’ Week 1 game to keep your eye on is how often he’s on the field. This will be the first time Revis will step on to a football field in 50 weeks, so it’s understandable for him to be a bit rusty. No one has ever put a play count on Revis, and his adrenaline should be pumping about a return against the Jets, but he won’t be a full go. He’ll be out there a lot, but it’ll be interesting to see when they decide to bring him off.
Adrian Clayborn – After missing a big portion of the 2012 season Adrian Clayborn is back, and seemingly ready to get after the quarterback often. Clayborn was just starting to come on last year before he went down, and with McCoy expected to suck up a double team on almost every play, Clayborn should have plenty of chances this season. He will be a key to how the Buccaneers defensive line progresses this year compared to last. I expect Geno Smith to hold on to the ball a little longer than the normal QB, so Clayborn needs to take advantage of it.
Antonio Cromartie – I mentioned it before, but it’s worth saying again, the Cromartie Jackson matchup will be huge in this game. The Buccaneers signed Vincent Jackson to be an every week stud, and so far he has been. But this week he’s got to go up against one of the leagues best in Cromartie. Cromartie shut down many top flight receivers a year ago, and he seems primed to be back at it this season. If he can indeed shut down Vincent, Freeman will be put into a situation he doesn’t want to be in, relying on Kevin Ogletree to fill the void. If Cromartie doesn’t dominate Jackson, the Jets little chance of winning goes to none.
Chris Ivory – Ivory was brought to New York to shore up their run game. With the disaster that is the Jets quarterback situation they need to have a better run game than last year. However, with Geno Smith getting the nod, the Bucs are likely to key in on the run game and force Geno to beat them. But keying on the run and stopping the run do not always go hand in hand. If Ivory can get going early, it will make the game a lot easier for Smith and make this a game the Jets could possible steal from Tampa Bay. However, I think many people are forgetting what Chris Ivory actually is. He’s not an elite back, heck he’s never even really been a starting back. Sometimes a change in scenery makes a huge difference, we’ll have to wait and see. But if Ivory shows much of the same, the Jets are in trouble.