TAMPA — In March, Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano challenged third-year DE Da’Quan Bowers to record a double-digit sack season.
This week, he demoted Bowers to second string behind Daniel Te’o-Nesheim.
Bowers understands Schiano’s mind games and gets the message.
“Of course that will push me,’’ Bowers said Wednesday, regarding his diminished position on the depth chart. “My ultimate goal is not to be the second-team defensive end, it’s to be a starter. If that’s his way of pushing me, I acknowledge that and I’m trying to do something about it.’’
Tampa Bay’s second-round pick in the 2011 draft has been undermined by injuries (knee, Achilles) and just finished up his first full NFL training camp.
“Coach has invested a lot in me,’’ Bowers said. “He has believed in me. He’s given me shots and I appreciate that. I owe it to this organization to be the guy who can play on any down and play anywhere and be dominant. Me and Coach have had a lot of talks and he’s been leading me where I need to go.’’
Bowers led the nation with 15.5 sacks at Clemson in 2010, but slid in the draft the next year due to concerns about his knee. The Bucs lost DE Michael Bennett, who posted a team-leading nine sacks last season, in free agency and there is pressure on Bowers to provide heat off the left edge.
“I think (Schiano has) done a good job with me in camp,’’ Bowers said. “It wasn’t easy, but we’ve been working toward that goal. He’s very particular about me elevating my game.’’
Looking out for No. 1
The last time Tampa Bay’s defense faced a rookie quarterback, Philadelphia’s Nick Foles shredded the Bucs for 381 yards, hitting Jeremy Maclin with the winning touchdown pass as time expired in a 23-21 triumph in December at Raymond James Stadium.
After weeks of indecision, the Jets made it official Wednesday, going with rookie Geno Smith under center in Week 1 against the Bucs. The second-round pick out of West Virginia had mixed results in the preseason, completing 22 of 37 passes, but also suffering a three-interception night against the Giants.
“It’s got to be a big day for him and I think the guys are going to rally around Geno,’’ Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “He can’t just think he’s going to go out there and do something Herculean. ...He’s just got to play football.’’
Smith was 26-13 with the Mountaineers and set school records for career passing yards (11,662) and touchdown passes (98). In his final two seasons, Smith threw for 73 scores and only 13 interceptions.
“Smith’s got a great arm,’’ Bucs OLB Jonathan Casillas said. “He’s an incredible athlete at that posiiton and he’s a guy who can create a lot of things outside the pocket. Hopefully, we can confuse him on Sunday.’’
Schiano has an explanation for QB Josh Freeman’s paltry numbers in the preseason, when Freeman completed only 46 percent of his pass attempts and was sacked nine times.
“Josh is much better when he can lock in on a particular defense,’’ Schiano said. “As long as we’ve done our job and picked a lot of the right stuff, I think he’ll execute it very well. If you’ve done it before, I believe it’ll happen again in games where we’re game-planning.’’