Three games into the 2014 NFL season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers remain without a win as they approach their week 4 clash with the Pittsburgh Steelers. With offensive issues, defensive miscues, a historical beatdown at the hands of a division rival, and a play-caller being forced to take a medical leave of absence all at play in this young season, it is clear that the Bucs could use a dose of good news for a change.
For starters, being able to count on a pair of proven playmakers who have been hit with the injury bug would be a step in the right direction. That step was taken on Thursday as both RB Doug Martin and WR Vincent Jackson practiced and declared themselves available for Sunday's meeting with the Steelers in Pittsburgh. Martin sustained a knee injury during the team's week 1 loss to Carolina, while Jackson suffered a slight fracture to his wrist during the Bucs' meltdown last Thursday night in Atlanta.
Jackson's return will be a boost for the confidence and capabilities of young QB Mike Glennon, poised to make his first start of the season after Josh McCown injured his throwing thumb during last Thursday's loss. Glennon will need all the help he can get, and having Jackson available on the perimeter should enhance the Bucs' chances of igniting their passing game. Bucs QB Mike Glennon will need all the help he can get in week 4 against the Steelers.
Glennon replaced the injured McCown in the second half of last week's game, and hooked up with Jackson for a fourth-quarter touchdown. In Glennon's 13 starts as a rookie last year, the North Carolina State alum built a nice rapport with V-Jax, targeting his veteran receiver an average of 10 times per game from week 4 through week 17. This included an insane 22 targets during a week 6 game against the Falcons. Jackson had three 100 yard games over that stretch, scoring all 7 of his 2013 touchdowns along the way. Glennon's entrance into the starting lineup could, perhaps, help kickstart a Bucs offense which has struggled mightily through three games, and is now set to be without coordinator Jeff Tedford, who has been forced to take an indefinite leave of absence due to health reasons.
Additionally, Martin's return to health should serve as a big help to Glennon. The third-year Boise State alum likely could have played last Thursday night but was withheld due to the nature of the short week. Martin is keen to get back to the form he displayed as a rookie in 2012, when he rushed for 1,454 yards and 11 touchdowns and also piled up 472 receiving yards. Martin appeared in just 6 games a year ago, limited by a shoulder injury which brought his 2013 season to an abrupt end. Having missed two games already this season, the 25-year-old has spoken of his anxiety to prove that he is still an impact player for a team desperately in search of an offensive identity. Facing a knicked up Pittsburgh defense that has struggled to defend the run at times this year, Martin should see plenty of work on the ground, especially after backup Bobby Rainey lost two fumbles in week 3.
Time will tell if week 4 is the magic week for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to taste victory, but their chances will surely be helped by the availability of both Doug Martin and Vincent Jackson. The two playmakers are ready to rock for week 4, and with a young quarterback under center, an injury-riddled roster, and a season going nowhere fast, any news could be construed as good news for the Buccaneers at this point, particularly when it involves two of their best players.