It was roughly a month ago that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers traveled north to partake in joint practices with the Patriots, a get-together sparked by the close relationship between Bill Belichick and Greg Schiano, who is in his second season as Bucs head coach.
The teams did the same thing a preseason ago down in Tampa Bay, though the circumstances were slightly different in that they did not meet in the regular season.
They do this year, as the Bucs, looking to get their first win of the season, will once again travel north to take on the Patriots.
It’s been a long time since the Buccaneers played a regular-season game in Foxborough (2005), and even longer since they scored a point (2000).
Both teams have become popular landing spots for Rutgers players, a storyline that has been well-documented previously. Schiano was formerly the head coach there, while the Patriots have numerous Scarlet Knights on their roster, too.
So while the teams may be familiar with each other, here’s a primer for those needing to catch up on the Buccaneers.
Record: (0-2, last in NFC South)
Head coach: Greg Schiano (second season)
Offensive coordinator: Mike Sullivan
Defensive coordinator: Bill Sheridan
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, OFFENSE
1. RB Doug Martin. Aptly nicknamed the “Muscle Hamster,” Martin has been everything the Bucs hoped for when they selected him at the tail end of the first round of last year’s draft. An adept pass catcher, Martin is a workhorse running back with the power to run between the tackles and the speed to break free when he gets a step on a defender. The Bucs will lean heavily on Martin behind their massive offensive line, a tough test for the Patriots D.
2. QB Josh Freeman. There’s been a report that Freeman will request a trade before this year’s deadline (he’s apparently had some friction with Schiano in recent weeks), but he denied that report on Sunday and for now remains the team’s starter under center. Freeman has an abundance of physical tools, with the arm, talent and frame to be a big-time quarterback, but he’s yet to fully translate those into dependability on the field.
3. WR Vincent Jackson. When the Bucs and Patriots conducted joint practices, one of our first observations was the size of Jackson, who is listed at 6-5 and 230 pounds. He plays every bit as big, overwhelming opposing defenses with his frame and working both the middle and perimeter of the field. He’s an excellent red zone target and a terror to tackle.
THREE PLAYERS TO KNOW, DEFENSE
1. CB Darrelle Revis. It’s rare for the best defensive player in football -- when healthy -- to become available on the trade market, but that’s what happened this offseason when the Jets fielded offers for Revis. The Bucs pounced on the opportunity, then gave Revis a six-year contract worth up to $16 million per season. A rare combination of size, reactive athleticism and ball skills, Revis started off strong for the Bucs, breaking up two passes in his debut and adding another in Week 2.
2. LB Lavonte David. He made headlines in Week 1 for a silly penalty that propelled the Jets into field goal range and allowed them to kick the game-winner as the clock expired, but David is a tremendous talent who has extensive range. A second-round pick last season, David has the coverage skills and instincts to effectively play on all three downs for Tampa Bay. In just 18 pro games, David already has 153 tackles. He’s up to 2.5 sacks and an interception this season.
3. S Mark Barron/S Dashon Goldson. There may not be a better safety duo in football, as Goldson, a 2012 first-team All-Pro, signed with the Bucs this offseason to pair with their top pick from last year, Barron. Goldson has the build of a linebacker and while Barron isn’t quite as big. Each will deliver crunching hits when the opportunity presents itself. Barron was all over the field in Week 2, registering 13 tackles to go along with a half sack. The duo can ably defend the run and the pass, and with Revis blanketing one side of the field, this secondary on the whole is an excellent group. Late Monday, Goldson was suspended by the NFL for one game due to a helmet-to-helmet hit in Week 2, though Goldson will appeal the suspension, which could make him available this Sunday.
Other notes: End-of-game situations have bugged the Bucs, as they’ve lost each of their first two outings on last-second field goals. ... The Bucs paid big money to guard Carl Nicks last offseason, though he’s yet to play a game this year because of a MRSA staph infection in his toe. He appears closer to a return. ... The Bucs are on their third kicker already, as starter Connor Barth suffered an offseason injury, while his replacement, Lawrence Tynes, also is out with a MRSA staph infection. ... Gerald McCoy, the third pick in the 2010 NFL draft, has evolved into one of the top interior defensive linemen in the league.