New York Jets 2021 opponent report: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

New York Giants, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants

Tom Brady isn’t done with the New York Jets just yet, as he and the defending champions ring in the new year with a visit to East Rutherford.

The Opponent: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Date:
Week 16, January 2, 1 p.m. ET, Fox (@ NY)
The Series: 
Jets lead 10-2 (last meeting: 2017, 15-10 TB)

Just when the New York Jets thought the Tom Brady nightmare was over, the defending Super Bowl champions have forced them back to sleep.

Fortunately, the Jets only have to face the arguable GOAT only once this time around, as opposed to what was an annual double dose of pain bestowed by Brady and his New England compatriots. Their quadrennial get-together with Brady’s new group from Tampa Bay will serve as the Jets’ home finale. Time will tell if the Jets are ringing in the new calendar year with a positive outlook, while the Buccaneers will possibly be prepping for a Super Bowl title defense. This will mark Tampa’s second-ever visit to MetLife Stadium to play the Jets and their first since 2013.

Brady will be searching for his 30th win against the Jets, his second-best tally against any opponent, behind only the 32 victories he has tallied against the Buffalo Bills. As defending champions, the Buccaneers will open in Week 1’s traditional Thursday night spot, taking on the Dallas Cowboys at home (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC).

New York Giants, Chris Godwin
Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Skinny On the Buccaneers 

Claiming that a defending Super Bowl champion is built for a long-haul dynasty is a tried storyline, especially since so many “they’ll be back in no time” contenders (i.e. Jacksonville, Philadelphia, San Francisco) have quickly faded into obscurity. But Tampa Bay locked up several of its major pieces from the championship trek: they franchise tagged Chris Godwin and re-upped with Leonard Fournette, Lavonte David, Antonio Brown, Rob Gronkowski, Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, and Steve McLendon (obtained through the Jets’ in-season fire sale).

Mere months after they became the first team to both host and win a Super Bowl, Tampa Bay also became the first team in the salary cap era to retain all 22 of their offensive/defensive starters. Leave it to a Brady-led squad to accomplish historical firsts in the name of adding more rings, it appears.

“The bond that we had, the bond that we shared this year, it’s like no other, with the coaching staff included,” the tenured Tampa linebacker David said of the bond build during the title run, per Buccaneers team reporter Carmen Vitali. “Everybody is a real tight-knit group and that’s something I haven’t been around in a while and it’s something I definitely want to be a part of.”

Re-upping with their champions was made possible in part due to a contract restructuring on Brady’s end. Not only does his adjusted contract keep him in Tampa through the 2022 season but also saved the team $19 million in cap space.

“(Brady) has proven himself to be the ultimate competitor and delivered in every way we had imagined, helping us capture the Lombardi Trophy,” Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht in team statement announcing the deal. “Year after year, Tom proves that he remains one of the elite quarterbacks in this game and we couldn’t be happier to keep him in Tampa Bay as we continue to pursue our goals together.”

Of course, Brady didn’t earn his seventh title on his own. He was anchored by a strong support system headlined by Tampa’s offensive line, one that allowed only 22 sacks (fourth-best tally in the NFL) and allowed a run game headlined by Fournette and Ronald Jones to work wonders. Tristan Wirfs proved to be well worth the draft day trade-up (allowing only one sack) while blindside anchor Donovan Smith earned a contract extension.

Defensively, the Buccaneers (under ex-Jets head coach turned Tampa coordinator Todd Bowles) proved their worth long before providing a blueprint on how to neutralize Patrick Mahomes. They had the top-ranked run defense in the league (80.6 yards per game) and ranked second in the NFC in takeaways (25).

What’s New In Tampa Bay?

The Buccaneers understandably kept the adjustments to a minimum after the full retainment. They bolstered their run game through the addition of former Bengal Giovani Bernard and obtained several projects through the draft. 

Tampya used its first pick, the traditional 32nd slot assigned to the defending champion, on linebacker Joe Tryon-Shoyinka. It might’ve been easy for the Washington alum to fade into the background, especially with Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul back for another go at it, but he instead became one of Tampa’s most dangerous pass-rushing threats during the preseason.

“Joe is going to be amazing. He’s doing stuff that I’m looking at and thinking, ‘Man, I wish I would of knew that when I was a rookie,’” Pierre-Paul said of Tryon-Shoyinka, per Jenna Laine of ESPN. “He’s doing amazing stuff out there…He’s been moving since day one when he got here. From there to now, he’s been moving tremendously. He just has to stay on his feet. I had that problem myself.”

Tampa also potentially prepped for the post-Brady by drafting Florida thrower Kyle Trask in the second and opened day three with Sun Belt weapon Jaelon Darden. Scorer of 31 touchdowns during his final two seasons at North Texas, Darden is already listed as the team’s primary returner.

How to Beat Them

-Break On Through

Brady may be the greatest, but he’s still only human: the Jets’ blue, East Rutherford co-tenants proved that by raising the pressure.

Cliche as “getting to the quarterback” has become…perhaps the gridiron equivalent of “pucks on net/pucks deep“…it’s a formula that’s as true as it is tired and could take on greater importance for the aging Brady; Tampa Bay was 1-3 when Brady was sacked at least three times. The Wild Card playoff tilt against Washington was closer than it had any right to be simply because the opposing Football Team raised the pressure. Tampa’s strong blocking corps was able to handle the threat and upped its game for the rest of the postseason, allowing only three sacks en route to the hometown Super Bowl.

That’s why the Jets, in part, opted to raise their pressure game. Everyone knows, by now, about the lack of Carl Lawson. But the team has newfound faith in its front seven after the breakthroughs of Quinnen Williams, Foley Fatukasi, and John Franklin-Myers. The late addition of Shaq Lawson should help them tread water as well.

-The Best Defense…A Good (Young) Offense

By the time the Jets square off against the Buccaneers, Zach Wilson and company will (hopefully) have had 15 games to get used to each other’s talents and idiosyncrasies.

Even if the Jets are long removed from the playoff picture (again, appearing in the “In the Hunt” column on the annual playoff charts that show up near the holidays should be enough of a win at this point), beating Tampa Bay would be such a boost of confidence for the future, a realistic “throat-clearing” gesture that can put the rest of the league on notice.

To do that, the Jets should take advantage of Tampa’s defense, which could be working through the difficulties of an extended season and a Super Bowl hangover. There’s plenty of talent and experience to go around, enough to keep the Buccaneers amongst the penthouse dwellers of the NFL’s elite. But Pierre-Paul and Suh are working through their 30s while other staples like McLendon and William Gholston are no spring chickens by NFL standards either.

There’d be no better way for the Jets to light the path to a hopeful feature by using their young offense to top the defending Super Bowl champions just two days into a new calendar year. It’s up to their progress over the first 15 games to give them a chance to make such a statement.

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

Should the New York Giants prioritize acquiring a slot or outside receiver?

New York Giants, Chris Godwin

The New York Giants confirmed that they will be looking for offensive playmakers this offseason. Daniel Jones needs help. But where will the help come from? Will the Giants sign a wide receiver in free agency or draft someone early on in the 2021 NFL Draft?

More specifically, what kind of receiver will the Giants target? It is a rich free agency class and an arguably richer draft class. But many of the top prospects in each class are slot receivers. Most fans assume New York will go after an outside wide receiver because the roster already includes Sterling Shepard and Golden Tate.

However, Tate is a potential cut candidate, and the inclusion of Sterling Shepard should not prevent the Giants from signing an outside wide receiver. Shepard has been primarily an outside receiver the past two seasons.

In 2020, Shep played 190 snaps in the slot compared to 356 snaps out wide. In the slot, Sterling recorded 20 receptions for 148 yards and one touchdown (only 7.4 yards per reception). Out wide, Shepard totaled 46 receptions for 508 yards and three touchdowns (11.04 yards per reception). Given Sterling Shepard’s efficiency lined up outside, should the Giants consider acquiring an elite slot receiver this offseason? Or should they move Shepard inside and get an elite outside receiver?

Slot or outside wide receiver?

Sterling Shepard was far more efficient while playing outside in 2020. Darius Slayton was inconsistent this season but typically plays on the outside. New York had a rotation in the slot that included Golden Tate, Austin Mack, CJ Board, and Sterling Shepard. Going forward, the Giants will have to reconfigure their wide receiver corps as they look to acquire more talent at the position.

Some of the top free-agent wide receivers this offseason are Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, and Curtis Samuel. Golladay and Robinson are outside wide receivers but Godwin and Samuel are primarily slot receivers. The first pair of receivers will likely cost more money than the second pair, which could make the Giants more attracted to one of those top slot receivers.

Furthermore, in the draft, there is a debate between two of the top receiver prospects. Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith, both Alabama products, will be first-round wide receivers in 2021. The Giants are likely to target a wide receiver, but if they go wide receiver in the first round, which one of the two Alabama boys will they prefer?

Whichever player they believe to be better, regardless of whether or not they play inside or outside, is who they should prefer. Smith played primarily outside in college. Waddle operating primarily from the slot. This has fans assuming that the Giants will target Smith and cross Waddle off their list. That is not and should not be the case.

If the Giants believe Waddle is the better player then they should absolutely target him. The Giants need an elite, number one wide receiver. Why must that receiver play outside? It is entirely possible to have your primary receiver play in the slot. Sterling Shepard is efficient at playing outside. When we interviewed his trainer David Robinson on Fireside Giants, Robinson indicated that Shepard is better and more comfortable playing outside.

If the Giants have the opportunity to acquire the likes of Jaylen Waddle or Chris Godwin, they should not shy away from these elite talents just because they are slot receivers. Having your primary receiver play on the outside is not a necessity. The Giants have the personnel to acquire a guy inside or outside. Sterling Shepard could move inside if he has to, but he just might be better off outside.

New York Giants: Is Julio Jones a potential trade target for the Giants?

New York Giants, Julio Jones

One of the greatest wide receivers of this generation is rumored to be on the market this offseason. Could Julio Jones be a good fit for the New York Giants’ offense with Daniel Jones? The Giants should at least monitor the Julio Jones situation.

Jones is one of the best receivers in the NFL and has had an elite career thus far, but is getting up there in age. He is also coming off an injury-filled year. Should the Giants still consider making a move on Jones this offseason?

The Falcons have one of the best wide receiver duos in the NFL with Jones and Calvin Ridley. With the emergence of Ridley, he has shown wide receiver one numbers when Jones has been injured this past season. Matt Ryan, the Falcons’ quarterback, is also aging. Seems like Jones is the odd man out.

Once the new Falcons general manager is hired, he will assess the roster and whether to rebuild the Falcons or stay with the team as is and try to make a playoff push.

Jones has been on and off the field all year, playing only nine games this season. In those nine games, Jones has shown he still got it hauling in 51 catches for 771 yards but only three touchdowns. With Jones missing seven games, you would like to see more touchdowns, but Jones has been dealing with injuries all year.

Questions

The questions all Giants fans are asking right now are, why would we be interested in Julio Jones, and what is it going to cost the Giants to acquire a player like him?

The Giants need a difference-maker on the offensive side of the ball; Jones would be just that. Daniel Jones or any Giants quarterback, at that matter, needs a player they can trust that will go up and get the ball. Jones is faster, taller, and stronger than anyone the Giants currently have on the outside. He is a freak of nature, and from what he has shown this past year, he still can ball.

The cost to get Julio in New York is very hard to say. Jones is 31 currently and aging, it will be hard for the Giants to give up a first-round pick for an aging player. The Falcons traded wide receiver Mohommad Sanu to the New England Patriots for a second-round pick in 2019. If Sanu got traded for a second-round pick, I could only imagine what the Falcons would want for Julio Jones.

Not only will the Giants have to give up assets to get Julio Jones, but the Giants will also have to create a little bit more cap space as well. Jones’ cap hit in 2021 will be around $23 million dollars, which is very high for a wide receiver. In 2022 and 2023, the cap hit will get more affordable, being around $19 million dollars but after that, Jones has an opt-out in his deal.

Forget Julio Jones, draft a receiver:

Would you trade your first-round pick for Julio Jones or keep your first-round pick and draft one of two premier receivers in this year’s draft class? Some really want Ja’Marr Chase from LSU or Devonta Smith from Alabama. Which sounds better, Julio Jones or one of the two rookies?

If the Giants have a chance to go with one of the two premier receivers in this draft class, it will be hard to pass them up. If the Giants miss both of the receivers, that is when I think you could see the Giants try to make a play on a talent like Julio Jones.

Forget Julio Jones and drafting a receiver, sign one:

The Giants will also be looking to sign one of the top receivers in free agency if they do not decide to go with one in the draft. Allen Robinson, Kenny Golladay, Chris Godwin, Will Fuller, Curtis Samuel, and Corey Davis are some of the big-name receivers that could be hitting the open market this offseason.

Robinson is looking to win, which considering the state of the Giants, he might stay away. Golladay has missed 12 games this season and could take a one-year prove-it deal with the Giants. Godwin, in my opinion, will not hit the open market. The Buccaneers will either franchise tag or extend him this offseason. Fuller got caught with PEDs in the middle of the season, but his performance on the field is something the Giants could be interested in. Samuel is more of a number two receiver but could be a good outside receiver with Sterling Shepard in the slot and Darius Slayton on the opposite side. The last receiver we have is Corey Davis, he has ties with safety Logan Ryan from the Tennessee Titans. Davis has been injury-prone much of his career but will fit the Giants scheme if he stays healthy.

What should the Giants do?

The New York Giants have to bolster their wide receiver corps. If the Giants have to trade for a stud like Julio Jones, or sign a big-time receiver this offseason, and or go young and draft an absolute stud receiver. Either way, I do not think the Giants will not leave this offseason empty-handed.

New York Giants: James Bradberry will face off in key Week 8 matchup against Mike Evans

New York Giants, James Bradberry

The New York Giants will face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers tonight on primetime. The 1-6 Giants will be underdogs at home against the 5-2 Buccaneers who have recently emerged as Super Bowl contenders.

The Buccaneers’ offense has been nearly unstoppable in recent weeks as Tom Brady has begun playing at an MVP level. Tom “Terrific” reaps the benefits of having a slew of talented offensive weapons to share the rock with. But this week, one of his top two receivers, Chris Godwin, will be out with a finger injury. This leaves Mike Evans as the Bucs’ primary weapon on Monday night.

Mike Evans will have to face off against Giants cornerback James Bradberry, who is playing at an All-Pro level through the first seven weeks of the season. Bradberry and Evans have a history, as Bradberry formerly played in the NFC South as a member of the Carolina Panthers. This matchup could be the key to victory for the Giants in Week 8.

Mike Evans vs. James Bradberry

James Bradberry and Mike Evans have a long history playing against each other in the NFC South. Bradberry spent the first four years of his career with the Carolina Panthers before signing with the Giants this offseason. Evans and Bradberry have faced off twice per year since Bradberry entered the league in 2017.

In 2020, Bradberry and Evans will only matchup this one time. Based on their previous matchups, the Giants should feel pretty confident that Mike Evans will be contained on Monday night.

James Bradberry has held Mike Evans to mediocre or below-average performances on multiple occasions. Only a couple of times has Evans gotten the best of Bradberry. James Bradberry has never allowed Mike Evans to score a touchdown in his coverage.

This year, it is even more likely that Bradberry contains Evans based on the way James has performed throughout this season. James Bradberry is the fifth-highest graded cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. Bradberry made PFF’s First-Quarter All-Pro Team four his dominant first four weeks of the season.

The Giants’ secondary has suffered from a revolving door at the second cornerback position. However, James Bradberry has held the defensive together like glue with consistently excellent play as the primary cornerback. It would be surprising to see Mike Evans break out against the Giants’ defense tonight.