Commentary | Looking at Buccaneers opener: Be careful what you wish for

September 4, 2013 

TAMPA

Be careful what you wish for!

On one hand, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano couldn't have hand-picked a better opponent to open the season than the NFL's traveling circus New York Jets.

What better way for Darrelle Revis to work off the rust than going against rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who gets the start by default after an injury to Mark Sanchez.

This is a team in disarray so bad that head coach Rex Ryan didn't even stick around Saturday when the Jets made their final cuts and then studied the waiver wire.

All the talk about Revis coming back home to the team he played for his entire NFL career takes the pressure off Johnthan Banks, who will play the other cornerback spot.

The Jets offense is so anemic even if they target Banks, it's like shooting blanks. They ranked 30th out of 32 teams in total offense and passing offense and 28th in scoring.

Their primary receiving threats, Stephen Hill and Jeremy Kerley, are still trying to establish themselves. An interesting subplot is their tight end Kellen Winslow, who bolted the Bucs last year because he thought Schiano was working him too hard.

So from a Bucs perspective you have to like this matchup: Josh Freeman vs. Geno Smith. The Bucs' improved secondary versus a team that can't pass and can't run very well.

Sounds too good to be true?

Probably.

But this game is a Catch-22 for Tampa Bay.

The Bucs are supposed to win this matchup convincingly, and that's never easy.

A close game even in victory could be construed as a loss. But getting the W is important because their next two games are against New Orleans and at New England.

This game is most im

portant to Freeman and Schiano.

If the season turns into a disaster, you can't fire an entire team, but you can get rid of the head coach and quarterback.

An 0-3 start fueled by a loss to the hapless Jets doesn't give Schiano a lot of equity with his players.

He changed the culture last year, weeding out players who wanted a country-club atmosphere, but it came at a price. Some felt Schiano went overboard.

To his credit, Schiano softened things up a little this year after dissecting feedback he received from some of his players.

You hear rumblings that he still treats his players more like college kids than adults. But it's OK if you are winning, so just don't lose.

The Bucs have learned nothing is safe with Freeman, the NFL's Jekyll and Hyde quarterback.

A bad game and loss to beleaguered rookie Geno Smith could be devastating to Freeman's reputation and confidence.

NFL opening games do not make a season, but this one against the Jets is somewhat of an anomaly.

The best thing the Bucs have going for themselves Sunday is Smith. He looked overwhelmed in his last preseason appearance when he threw three interceptions and took a safety against the Giants.

It makes you wonder if Schiano kept Revis out of all preseason games because he would face less stress against the toothless Jets passing game.

If all goes according to Hoyle, this is Revis' preseason game before he has take on Drew Brees and Tom Brady on back-to-back weeks.

You don't want to put much stock into preseason, and you shouldn't, but it is a concern that Freeman was sacked nine times in his limited play, regardless of who was on the offensive line and how vanilla the play calling.

This game might not be so easy for Freeman. Ryan has taken over the defense, and the last time he did that in 2009 and '10 the Jets made it to the AFC championship game. Rex likes to blitz and will test Freeman's ability to make quick decisions. This defense is not bad.

You have to assume the Jets will keep things simple for Smith with a lot short timing routes, hoping he can execute half as well as Tom Brady did in strafing the Bucs defense during preseason.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter at @ADellSports.

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