Saturday, January 20, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jets say Bucs' Freeman can be rattled

TAMPA — The Jets are starting a rookie quarterback Sunday in Geno Smith, but they believe it's the Bucs' oft-criticized QB Josh Freeman who can be rattled into making mistakes.

"We feel like we have a great game plan to get him off his mark and get him uncomfortable," veteran DE Muhammad Wilkerson told espn.com.

Wilkerson thinks Freeman, whose 39 interceptions over the past two seasons are more than oft-criticized Jet Mark Sanchez, is vulnerable.

"You see it on film," he said. "You get him off his mark and get him kind of rattled, and he kind of just makes mistakes on his own. It's not even so much the defense, it's just him not being comfortable. If we do that, we should definitely be fine and come out with a victory."

Freeman, who always says he's insulated from outside criticism, insists bulletin-board material won't impact him.

"I'm no more motivated by somebody on the Jets saying something than somebody in the media saying something," Freeman said. "It comes from within, the work we do, the coaches. You've got to hold it tight because you can't let somebody else saying something the way you go about your business, otherwise you're going to change and you're going to be off-base in that regard."

ON GUARD: With Pro Bowl LG Carl Nicks (staph infection) still not practicing and unlikely to play Sunday, Gabe Carimi has taken a lot of the first-team reps at left guard and is preparing to play there against the Jets.

Coach Greg Schiano said guards Ted Larsen and Jamon Meredith are in the mix, and he's comfortable with all three. There's no immediate plans to move C Jeremy Zuttah over.

"I feel pretty good going into this week for sure," Carimi said. "I've got two great guys around me, experienced guys (Zuttah and LT Donald Penn), and they've been in the system so they've helped me out."

It's been an adjustment for Carimi, who is used to playing on the right side, with 13 starts at tackle and three at guard. But the former Bears first-round pick said the experience of starting there in a couple of preseason games helped "immeasurably."

"There's different looks at guard than there are at tackle, and switching stance back over to the left," Carimi said. "I hadn't been on the left side for a while, so there's some hiccup coming out there, but I feel good."

FOR KICKS: With the amount of trust and confidence Schiano garnered in K Connor Barth last season, there was bound to be an adjustment for his replacement.

Barth, the most accurate kicker in franchise history, had six field goals of 50 or more yards last season, which played into Schiano's play-calling. With Barth out due to season-ending Achilles surgery, K Rian Lindell came in a couple of weeks ago and won the kicking job based on his experience and performance, Schiano said.

While Lindell is a 12-year veteran, Schiano said it'll be a work in progress figuring out Lindell's distance comfort level. Lindell's percentages speak for themselves, but Schiano will rely on the kicker's conviction during in-game talks.

"We just have to get a feel for each other," Schiano said. "I rely a lot on communication with our specialists because they're certainly much more informed and better than I am at that."

MEDICAL MATTERS: All indications are that Jets WR Santonio Holmes (Lisfranc surgery) will start Sunday, according to the New York Post. … Bucs Pro Bowl RG Davin Joseph, who missed last season due to knee surgery, said he feels good and doesn't need to be limited. … CB Rashaan Melvin and TE Tom Crabtree did not practice. FB Erik Lorig was limited but has a chance to play, Schiano said.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

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