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Thursday Notes

Posted Sep 19, 2013

In just his short time back from a season-ending knee injury, CB Darrelle Revis has already looked very strong in man-to-man coverage, which is going to be an enormous asset for the Bucs' defense moving forward...Plus, injury updates and more

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Darrelle Revis is quickly re-emerging as the NFL's best cover cornerback, which is good news for the Bucs' defense moving forward
  • DE Adrian Clayborn and LB Mason Foster both returned to full participation in practice on Thursday
  • The big-play potential in Tampa Bay's passing attack in 2012 is still there to be exploited when the offense finds its rhythm
Revis Island is still taking shape in Tampa Bay.

During the 2013 offseason, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers acquired, in a trade with the New York Jets, Darrelle Revis, widely considered the best cornerback currently in the NFL, and perhaps one of the best ever at his position.  Revis excels in all areas of cornerback play, including zone coverage, but the area in which he truly separates from the pack is man-to-man coverage.  That talent, the one that earned him the Revis Island moniker, will pay great dividends for the Buccaneers' defense in the immediate and long-term future.

It already has, in fact.  According to the tape-crunchers at Football Outsiders, Revis has been nearly unbeatable on the snaps on which he has played man-to-man coverage through the first two weeks of the 2013 season.  Obviously, the Buccaneers have not had Revis in man coverage on every single snap in the first two games – and, in fact, Revis was substituted for fairly regularly in the season opener against the New York Jets because it was his first game in almost a year – but they are well aware of his abilities and plan to make the most of them for years to come.

"We do try and orchestrate that during the game, as far as getting him on a receivers we want to have him covered or the coverage types that we play," said Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan. "He’s not as dependent on having a half-field safety behind him, necessarily, and as we go forward every week when we game-plan we look at who’s perceived as the top receivers for that team and how do we best match up all of our personnel, not just Darrelle.  He has a very unique skill set in that area and as we go forward we’re definitely going to try and orchestrate that into scenarios when we can, whether it’s man coverages or pressures or stuff like that.”

Revis acknowledges that man-to-man coverage – and especially the type of all-game blanketing of the opponents' top receiver that made him famous in New York – is his "comfort zone."  But he also knows that every game calls for a variety of coverages and defensive sets, and he's ready to excel in whatever approach the Bucs use on any given play.

- CB Darrelle Revis helps the Buccaneers' defense in a variety of ways

"We all have to do our jobs here, whether we're in man coverage or zone coverage," said Revis.  "We all have to do our jobs at the end of the day, and that's what I'm here for.  I'm here to execute my job – whatever we're in, I have to play.  I have to execute it to the best of my ability.

"It's not just me, it’s this whole secondary. I think that we've got some good players that can cover in Johnthan Banks and Leonard Johnson, and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re just trying to put all those [assets] together and just try and go out there and be a great secondary.”

Revis was not in man-to-man coverage on Marques Colston, the Saints' number-one receiver, on the last offensive play of Sunday's last-second loss at Raymond James Stadium. Colston lined up in the slot and was covered by Johnson, who was tight on Colston on a post route down the field from the right side but unable to get his hand on Drew Brees' perfect 31-yard pass.  Revis closer to the sideline, covering the outside receiver.  Some postgame analysis has suggested that the Bucs could have had Revis matched up with Colston, but of course there is no way of knowing if that would have affected the game's final outcome.  Perhaps Brees would have then found one of his outside receivers.

"It was the end of the game," said Revis.  "You can't really pinpoint one play.  The game was going so fast – it happens.  You can't sit there and say, 'Could he have intercepted it or batted it down?'  I think that's taking away from my teammate.  [Johnson] could have intercepted the ball or batted it down.  It's just something that happened. The only thing we can do as a team and as a defense is learn from it, and the next time that situation comes up, try to deal with it the best we can."

One thing is for certain: The Buccaneers have the best cover cornerback in the NFL – and he appears to be quickly rounding back into top form – and that is going to have a huge impact on their defense in not only the weeks to come, but the years to come.

* As often happens during a week of practice, the Buccaneers saw incremental improvement in their official injury report on Thursday.  While the list remained essentially the same, two key Buccaneer defenders saw their participation in practice ramp up from "limited" to "full:" linebacker Mason Foster (toe) and defensive end Adrian Clayborn (hip).  As such, there shouldn't be much worry that those two will be able to suit up on Sunday in Foxborough.

Perhaps more importantly, none of the players on Tampa Bay's list took a step backward on Thursday.  Most notably, starting left guard Carl Nicks was back on the field after getting in his first real practice in roughly a month on Wednesday.  Nicks is returning from a toe injury and a foot infection, and it would have been a note of caution had he sat out on Thursday after Wednesday's work.  Schiano did say, however, that Nicks was not given a full workload on Thursday.

The Buccaneers have been looking forward to their first regular-season game with both Nicks and fellow Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph in the lineup for a year and a half.  It could happen this weekend, though that is still not a sure thing.

“Yeah, it’ll be nice," said Schiano.  "Hopeffully that’ll happen Sunday.  We’ll see Sunday.  We haven’t done it yet; let’s find out. I can talk about it, but let’s see.”

New England's injury report had even fewer changes.  Cornerback Marquice Cole, who sat out on Wednesday for a reason that was not injury-related, returned to full practice on Thursday.  The only player to be fully held out of action on Thursday was wide receiver Matt Slater; wide receiver Danny Amendola (groin) and tight end Rob Gronkowski (back/forearm) both participated in a limited fashion.  The full injury reports for both teams are below:

Buccaneers:

Player

Injury

Practice Status

CB Michael Adams

Knee

Did Not Participate

T Gabe Carimi

Illness

Did Not Participate

DE Adrian Clayborn

Hip

Full Participation

TE Tom Crabtree

Ankle

Limited Participation

LB Mason Foster

Toe

Full Participation

DT Derek Landri

Knee

Out

CB Rashaan Melvin

Hamstring

Limited Participation

G Carl Nicks

Foot

Limited Participation

TE Luke Stocker

Hip

Limited Participation

 

Patriots:

WR Danny Amendola

Groin

Limited Participation

RB Brandon Bolden

Knee

Limited Participation

CB Marquice Cole

Not Injury Related

Full Participation

G Dan Connolly

Finger

Limited Participation

DB Nate Ebner

Ankle

Limited Participation

TE Rob Gronkowski

Back/Forearm

Limited Participation

WR Matt Slater

Wrist

Did Not Participate

TE Zach Sudfeld

Hamstring

Full Participation

T Will Svitek

Knee

Limited Participation

RB Leon Washington

Thigh

Limited Participation

 

* Last season, the Buccaneers' passing attack generated 36 completions of 25 or more yards, which tied for the fourth-highest total in the NFL.  Through two games this year, the Buccaneers have three such plays, tying them for 16th in the NFL and setting a piece that would lead to 24 "big gains" by the end of the year.

Obviously, Tampa Bay's passing attack hasn't yet found much consistency in 2013…but then, the Bucs had just 356 passing yards through two games last year, nearly identical this year's mark of 335.  The big-play passing attack really began to burgeon in Week Four, and quarterback Josh Freeman thinks the Bucs are near to finding that groove again.

“Yeah, we’ve been close on a number of shots this year, but it’s a matter of getting in synch and hitting them," said Freeman.  "That’s really what it comes down to, and I know we’ve been out on the practice field, guys have been working extremely hard and we have a lot of confidence that we’re going to get this thing cranked up real soon.”

In one respect, the passing attack hasn't changed – wide receiver Vincent Jackson is still one of the NFL's top deep threats.  He led the NFL with an average of 19.2 yards per catch last year and is currently at 19.3 in 2013, with a total of 231 yards that ranks fifth in the entire league.  Those numbers would be significantly higher – and the Bucs' deep attack would look significantly better – if his 73-yard touchdown catch against New Orleans hadn't been called back due to improper alignment at the line of scrimmage.

On the play, Jackson was running relatively even with a Saints defender, but he adjusted better to Freeman's deep pass, caught the ball over the DB and then stiff-armed his way free to run into the end zone.

“We like to say [that] if we get Vincent matched up one-on-one with, really, most of these defenders – any defender – you want to give him the opportunity," said Freeman.  "On one of the plays that got called back, that was really just an opportunity, a shot, just saying, ‘Hey, it’s Vincent Jackson, he’s going to make a play. Unfortunately, we had the illegal procedure.”

That play didn't count, of course, and the Bucs ended up with a last-second defeat in which, for the second straight week, they scored only one touchdown on offense.  Freeman and company still need to click in all aspects of the attack – and Freeman said the Bucs' current week of practice has been their sharpest yet – and with it will come the big plays that are clearly latent in this offense.

"I think the frustration comes from knowing that we’re [not] that far away and knowing that this offense is capable of scoring a lot more than seven points in a game," said Freeman.  "We just have to find a way to stop hurting ourselves, get better on third down and we’ll be just fine. The level we’ve been practicing at has been really high, guys are flying around – the precision, the timing. To double back around, it’s just a matter of not hurting ourselves.”

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