Previewing the opposition: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay got off to a decent start this year and, entering week five, had only lost one game. Since that time, they've lost five straight and will be without a couple of key players for the Jets game tomorrow. Last week, it really looked like the wheels had come off, but they'll turn to a very familiar face to steady the ship.

Let's review how their roster shapes up:


The Bucs will be without Jameis Winston, who aggravated a shoulder injury in last week's game and has been shelved for a few weeks to enable it to heal fully.

With Winston out, the Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Jets' starter in 2015 and 2016. Fitzpatrick obviously had an awful year last year with the Jets, but has compiled a 95.7 quarterback rating in three relief appearances so far this season, so the Jets can't bank on him melting down.

Offensive line

The Bucs' offensive line looks like it will be at full strength, although three starters missed practice time during the week. Tackles Demar Dotson and Donovan Smith returned to practice on Friday, while right guard JR Sweezy had been limited.

Dotson has been solid in pass protection this year, whereas Sweezy and Smith - who used to protect Christian Hackenberg's blindside in college - have had poor seasons, so it probably wouldn't be much of a downgrade if they were out.

At left guard, the Bucs have been rotating Kevin Pamphile and Evan Smith. Pamphile got some reps at left tackle in place of Donovan Smith last week, though.

Former second round pick Ali Marpet, probably the team's best run blocker, completes the line-up at center.

Running Backs

Doug Martin was one of the league's top running backs in 2015, racking up over 1,400 yards. However, his numbers have been poor over the past two seasons. He's averaging just 3.5 yards per carry, although he was under three yards per carry last year, so that's an upgrade.

Back-ups Jacquizz Rodgers and Peyton Barber haven't done much better at 3.6 yards per carry each. Charles Sims also sees time and has contributed 17 receptions in the passing game.


Even with Mike Evans suspended for instigating a brawl last week, the Bucs have some nice weapons in the passing game, led by veteran DeSean Jackson. With Evans out, the Bucs are listing Chris Godwin, another former teammate of Hackenberg's, as the other starter. Godwin has just eight catches so far in his rookie season, but has a lot of potential.

Adam Humphries is a good possession option who should also see plenty of time.

They're dangerous at tight end too. Cameron Brate had a breakout year last season and first round rookie OJ Howard leads the team in yards per catch. Luke Stocker is no slouch as the third stringer either.

Defensive line

The Bucs have had injury issues on the defensive line as well, with veterans Gerald McCoy and Robert Ayers missing practice time this week. Both should still play and McCoy is still one of the most disruptive interior linemen in the league so that's a boost for the Bucs.

Another starter, William Gholston, will miss the game after being carted off following a scary neck injury last week. Ryan Russell actually made his first start of the season ahead of Gholston in that game so will presumably remain in that role with Will Clarke providing depth off the bench. The Bucs have an NFL-low eight sacks on the season and nobody has more than two.

Veteran Chris Baker will start alongside McCoy with another veteran, Clinton McDonald, rotating in.


The Bucs boast an athletic group at linebacker, led by Lavonte David, who is excellent against the run and in coverage.

Former LSU duo Kwon Alexander and Kendall Beckwith are the other starters with Alexander being more of a rangy, sideline-to-sideline player and Beckwith more of a thumper who might come out of the game in subpackages.

Reserve Adarius Glanton saw plenty of time, including three starts, when David and Alexander missed time earlier in the year.

Defensive backs

There's a rare boost for the Bucs in the secondary as their best corner, Brent Grimes, is set to make his return from injury. Grimes is now 34 years old and in his 11th season.

Last year's first rounder Vernon Hargreaves got off to a rocky start this year, but has played really well over the last three weeks, giving up just four catches on 13 targets.

Robert McClain brings experience and an ability to man the slot to the nickel package. He's listed as doubtful with a hamstring injury, though.

While Grimes was out another second year player, Ryan Smith, was getting more time so he might be relied upon again if McClain is out.

At safety, the Bucs' highest profile player is TJ Ward, but he's been coming off the bench behind Justin Evans and Chris Conte. Keith Tandy also made a couple of starts earlier in the year. Evans, their second round pick, has been starting since week five.

Special teams

The Bucs have had issues with their kicking game, dumping Roberto Aguayo in preseason for former Jet Nick Folk and then dumping Folk himself after he missed five of his first 11 field goals. Patrick Murray has the job now and he also missed one last week.

Punter Bryan Anger's numbers are underwhelming but he's given up less than 10 return yards per game. He had one blocked for a touchdown last week, though.

Return man Bernard Reedy handles both kickoffs and punts, but his numbers are underwhelming. He did have a 50-yard kickoff return earlier in the season, though.

In kick coverage, the Bucs are led by Tandy, who was second on the team for tackles last year, too.