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Friday Notes: Jackson Confident

Posted Sep 20, 2013

Vincent Jackson ranks among the NFL's leading receivers and thinks the Bucs' offense as a whole can be just as productive…Plus injury updates and other notes

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • WR Vincent Jackson says the Bucs' offense can be as productive as ever once the penalty problem is erased
  • OL Gabe Carimi is out for Sunday's game but G Carl Nicks may be returning at just the right time
  • The Bucs' sack-happy defensive front will face a tough challenge this week in the Patriots' Tom Brady
Wide receiver Vincent Jackson has 231 receiving yards already, good for fifth in the NFL, and is on an early pace to surpass his memorable first seasonas a Tampa Bay Buccaneer.  Jackson has rung up a whopping 19.3 yards per catch, a category in which he led the NFL in 2012, and that's without the impressive 73-yard touchdown catch he briefly had on the books before it was erased by a penalty last Sunday.

If the Buccaneers' offense as a whole were operating at the same level that Jackson has been through two games, the team would likely be undefeated.  However, Tampa Bay has repeatedly hurt itself with penalties (a league-high 23 so far), causing last year's ninth-ranked attack to drop to 29th.  Jackson doesn't think it will stay there, expecting the Buccaneers' offense to recapture the form that set team records for points scored and yards gained in 2012.

"I’m excited about our offense," said Jackson.  "I think we’re continuing to grow, continuing to be more efficient with things we’re calling and getting the ball around to different guys. I think we’re doing well as an offense.

“The biggest thing is penalties, setting yourself back. It’s hard to get drives going when you’re going backwards and not forward. As long as we’re taking care of the football, we’re eliminating mental errors and we’re not going backwards in penalties, I think this offense could do just fine.”

Tampa Bay's offense has obviously shown signs that it can be as good, or better, than it was in 2012, most notably when throwing to Jackson on third down (tied for sixth in the NFL with 11 first downs produced) or handing it to second-year running back Doug Martin (second in the NFL with 209 rushing yards).  The penalties and a couple other procedural issues have kept that crew from stringing together first downs and sustained drives, however.

Like Jackson, Head Coach Greg Schiano is confident rather than concerned.

"Eventually our play will become more consistent because our work ethic is consistent," said Schiano.  "We just need to keep improving it, so it consistently climbs but it’s not like we’re this [rollercoaster].  Yet some of the game has been like that. We need to carry it from the meeting room to the practice field, from the practice field to the game field.”

- WR Vincent Jackson sees plenty of promise in the Bucs' offense

Despite a variety of issues that could be viewed as distractions over the past two weeks, Jackson dismissed the notion that there is any 'disarray' at One Buccaneer Place and insisted that the team and the offense hadn't lost any momentum.

“We’re doing just fine, our job doesn’t change with one loss," he said.  "We’re coming back to the table with the same approach every Monday, to win the next 'season' and once that game is over, it’s over. We’ve got to come back and prepare for the next opponent because they come on too fast. I think the guys’ energy and their level and their confidence is still there. We’re going to continue to play; there's a lot of football left.”

* Offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who started Tampa Bay's first two games at left guard, will not play on Sunday after missing the entire week of practice due to an illness.  Fortunately for the Buccaneers, the man Carimi was filling in for has a good chance to be returning at just the right time.

Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, who missed the entire preseason and the first two regular-season games due to a toe injury and a foot infection, practiced for the third straight day on Friday, though he was limited once again.  He was feeling well enough after that third practice that, if he avoids a step back over the next 48 hours, he can finally join fellow Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph on the line.

“[Nicks looked] pretty good," said Schiano.  "He went all three days – limited, but he did go. So that’s the best we’ve been in a long time.  If he’s like he is now, I suspect he’ll play, but we just have to wait and see how everything responds each day.”

Nicks was in good humor in the locker room after practice, joking about Doug Martin being on one of his fantasy teams and relishing the thought of helping the Bucs' struggling offense find its rhythm.  He said he hopes to not only play, but play every offensive snap.

“We’re going to find out," said Nicks with a laugh.  "That’s the plan, but we’re going to find out. [Others] will see sooner than I will if I’m gassed out there.  It feels really good to get back to work and feel like I’m contributing to the team and not feeling useless and sickly. It’s a really good feeling. I’m hiding it well, but I’m very excited.”

Carimi is one of three Buccaneers who have already been ruled out for Sunday's game, joining cornerback Michael Adams and defensive tackle Derek Landri, who are dealing with slightly longer-term knee injuries.  Like Nicks, tight end Tom Crabtree is still waiting to make his 2013 regular-season debut thanks to an ankle sprain suffered in the preseason, but Schiano did not elaborate on Crabtree's condition.  The former Green Bay Packer did return to practice in a limited fashion this week and is considered questionable for Sunday's game.

The Patriots have ruled out just one player, wide receiver Matthew Slater, but are likely to be without wide receiver Danny Amendola, as well.  Amendola is listed as "doubtful" on Friday's injury report due to his groin injury, and that technically means there is at least a 75% chance he will not play on Sunday.  Tight end Rob Gronkowski is merely questionable with his back and forearm injuries, however, after sitting out the first two games and the preseason. Below are the full Friday injury reports for both teams, complete with game status designations:

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

Game Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Did Not Participate

Out

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Did Not Participate

Out

DE Adrian Clayborn

Hip

Full Participation

Probable

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Limited Participation

Questionable

LB Mason Foster

Toe

Full Participation

Probable

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

Out

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Limited Participation

Questionable

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Limited Participation

Questionable

TE Luke Stocker

Hip

Limited Participation

Questionable

 

Patriots:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

Game Status

WR Danny Amendola

Groin

Limited Participation

Doubtful

RB Brandon Bolden

Knee

Limited Participation

Questionable

G Dan Connolly

Finger

Limited Participation

Questionable

DB Nate Ebner

Ankle

Limited Participation

Questionable

TE Rob Gronkowski

Back/Forearm

Limited Participation

Questionable

WR Matthew Slater

Wrist

Did Not Participate

Out

TE Zach Sudfeld

Hamstring

Full Participation

Probable

T Will Svitek

Knee

Limited Participation

Questionable

RB Leon Washington

Thigh

Limited Participation

Questionable

 

* The Buccaneers' nine sacks through two games is tied for the top mark in the NFL and is hopefully a sign that the amped-up pass rush the team has been trying to create for years has finally emerged.  The Bucs have put together consecutive games with at least four sacks for the first time since early in the 2011 season, and if they can make it three in a row it would be a particularly encouraging sign.

That's because this week's quarry is particularly hard to track down.  The Patriots have protected Brady well, ranking sixth in the league in fewest sacks allowed per pass play, and that is not a new development in 2013.  New England ranked fifth in that category last year, ninth in 2011, seventh in 2010 and second in 2009.  Since 2002, the Patriots have only fallen outside of the top 10 in fewest sacks allowed per pass play once, in 2008, which happened to be the year that Brady suffered a season-ending knee injury in Game One.

Obviously, Brady himself is the unifying factor over that decade, possessing the type of field vision that keeps him and his offense out of trouble.  Of course, that's a very good description for New Orleans' Drew Brees, one of the toughest QBs in the NFL to get to the ground, but the Bucs dropped him four times last Sunday.

Linebacker Lavonte David, who leads the team with 2.5 sacks and could become the first Buc defender with at least half a sack in three straight games since Adrian Clayborn did it in five straight in 2011, says the surge in sacks has come from everyone on the defensive front coming together into a cohesive unit.

"You've got to play together and believe in the guys around you," said David.  "We know we've got a great group of guys here, and it all starts up front with everybody working together and everybody playing hard. e've got confidence in ourselves.  Each guy in that room knows he can do his job.  We know the team is counting on the linebackers."