Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs need better balance to free Martin

TAMPA — The Jets made it a priority Sunday to contain Doug Martin, and they did a good job at it, holding the Bucs' Pro Bowl running back to 65 yards on 24 carries.

They stacked the box with defenders, even using their larger linemen when the Bucs went to three-receiver sets, daring Tampa Bay to beat them with the pass.

Tampa Bay wasn't surprised. Coach Greg Schiano said it's "no mystery" that opposing teams will follow that same formula to slow its offense.

"If I was the defensive coordinator, I'd do that also," RG Davin Joseph said. "That's going to be the reality of the next 15 games, they're going to try to stop Doug Martin."

There were a lot of other reasons the running game suffered Sunday. They were without All-Pro LG Carl Nicks (MRSA), blocking TE Tom Crabtree (ankle) and FB Erik Lorig (calf). Gabe Carimi made his first start at left guard, and Joseph said the unit had communication issues in New York.

But Joseph said what the Bucs need to do to free up Martin is have the right "run-pass mix." They found one last season, with QB Josh Freeman connecting with WRs Vincent Jackson and Mike Williams for deep passes, opening things for Martin, who rushed for 1,454 yards as a rookie.

Though Jackson had a big day Sunday, with seven catches for 154 yards, the passing game wasn't effective enough to keep the Jets honest.

"We have to throw and catch," Schiano said. "We missed open guys, and then we dropped some passes. We have to protect better. … If people are going to do that (focus on Martin), you're going to have to be able to throw the ball effectively, consistently, accurately and move the ball down the field. We did at times, and other times, we didn't."

DEMPS BACK: Former Gators star and Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps reported to the Bucs on Monday, but it's still unclear when he'll play and how he'll be used.

Demps, 23, acquired from the Patriots in the offseason LeGarrette Blount trade, did not participate in training camp or the preseason as he was allowed to focus on track, competing in Europe until last week. But agent Daniel Rose said Demps is ready to resume his football career, conditioning won't be an issue and he hopes to pick up the system quickly.

"He's excited," Rose said. "We all know what he can do. It's going to be interesting."

Schiano said they still have to figure out how they're going to use Demps, who can be a backup running back or a kick and punt returner. The team plans to get him acclimated, having a two-week exemption where he can work out with the club without being on the 53-man roster.

"I'm excited to have him here," Schiano said. "He'll walk into the National Football League probably as the fastest player in the league. That's always nice to have on your team."

MEDICAL MATTERS: Nicks is getting closer to a return, but Schiano said he doesn't know if he's going to play this week against his former team, the Saints. Carimi started Sunday in Nicks' place and said he felt comfortable, but Schiano didn't commit to him. Schiano said CB Mike Adams hurt his knee against the Jets, though they don't know the severity.

BACKING DAVID: Bucs teammates continued to support LB Lavonte David, who committed the personal foul penalty that set up the Jets for the winning field goal. "A lot of people want to sit here and point fingers and say, 'He did this, he lost the game,' " LB Dekoda Watson said. "Come on. He messed up one time. That's a future Pro Bowler."

MILESTONE MOMENT: Rookie DT Akeem Spence said he kept the ball from Sunday's second-quarter fumble recovery, his first in the NFL, with plans to sign it and hang it above his bed. "It's my first big thing I did," Spence said. "I was happy."

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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