Follow a lot of the local coverage of Sunday's Jets-Buccaneers season opener and you'd swear the game will be a positional drill decided on how many passes Geno Smith completes to Santonio Holmes against Darrelle Revis. But there's more to it.
Such as how to contain Doug Martin, the Bucs' mighty-mite tailback from Boise State.
"We're really focusing on pursuing the football at practice," head coach Rex Ryan said at his news conference this afternoon. "This back, he runs hard, he runs through tackles."
"He's shifty and he's strong," said OLB Garrett McIntyre, emphasizing "strong" as if Martin's just a little stronger than a 5'9", 215-pounder should be. "He reminds me of a Maurice Jones-Drew kind of guy. You've got to gang-tackle him, you've got to swarm, you've got to get 11 Riddells to the ball."
McIntyre will have a big role in that and not just because he's so good with football phrases. With Quinton Coples (ankle) still sidelined, Mac is the starting rush 'backer, and job one for him and the Jets' front seven is to put a crimp in Tampa's No. 22, who last year rushed for 1,454 yards — with more than 1,000 coming in the last 10 games — as a precocious rookie.
"And he had 1,900 yards from scrimmage so he can catch the ball out of the backfield," he said. "If we're going to be productive on defense, it starts with stopping him."
McIntyre's now a grizzled NFL veteran, and it only took him those two Arena League seasons and two CFL seasons before he could get started on becoming a third-year Jets LB. He says he still follows the Hamilton Ti-Cats weekly online, but only because many of his friends are still there, not because he'll need to return there and hit the ground running as a player.
"At this point in my career, I might as well start figuring out what I'm going to do after football instead of going back up there and beating up my body more for less pay," he said. "But it's a great game. I have a lot of respect for the CFL. It's more about being quick, being able to rush the passer. So yeah, it fits me.
"But I can fit in any league. I've seen three different styles of football, and I think that's helped me become the player that I am."
That player that Mac is would love to get to QB Josh Freeman a few times on Sunday, like he did in Game 2 last year when he dropped Ben Roethlisberger twice in Pittsburgh. But those opportunities will only open up if the Jets close down Martin's rush lanes first.
Ivory Assesses His Old Foes
Chris Ivory told reporters he has "no disappointment at all" over Ryan naming Bilal Powell as the starting tailback. "Bilal is a great runner and a very smart guy," Ivory said. "At the end of the day, we're both going to be on the field."
Both will be needed Sunday because Tampa was the league's No. 1 rush defense last year, led by LB Lavonte David and Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy. (But they were 29th in overall defense due to their last-place ranking in pass defense.)
"And they look faster," said Ivory, who used to play the Bucs as a backup RB with the Saints. Then, referencing FS Dashon Goldson being added to the deep middle alongside Mark Barron, he added, "They were already a fast defense and I think those guys on the back end at the safety spot, they look pretty good."
But Ivory knew how to find the cracks in that defense in the past. In three career games vs. the Bucs, he averaged 12.3 carries for 86.0 yards, which calculates to 7.0 yards per carry.
Another emphasis of today's practice was on penalties, as in not committing them. "We're back to doing our pushups," Ryan said. "Last year, I thought, as soon as we did that, the penalties went way down. So we're starting the season rather than waiting till five weeks in or whatever." Actually, the yellow flags stopped falling after our Week 9 bye last year. In the first half of the season the Jets were averaging 6.4 penalties for 59.4 yards per game. In the second half the averages were 4.0 penalties and 29.1 yards.
Holmes (foot) and Kellen Winslow (knee) switched places on today's injury report. Holmes was limited Wednesday but did not participate today, while Winslow went from DNP to limited. This was a planned move for both players by the training staff, "kind of like a pitch count," Ryan said, adding that Holmes "did not have a setback." ... DE Leger Douzable, who was born and raised in Tampa and admits, "I was a Bucs fan because they were the home team, but actually I was a Cowboys fan," is coming back from his illness and was limited at practice.