How safety shakes out could be key for Bucs

by Gary Shelton on July 20, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Keith Tandy emerged as a playmaker for the Bucs../JEFFREY S. KING

Keith Tandy emerged as a playmaker for the Bucs../JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 3 a.m.

Here on the brink of training camp, there are a few questions we want to know about the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Who's going to win the placekicking job – misguided Roberto Aguayo or Nick Folk. How will the running back rotation work for three weeks while Doug Martin is in his league-induced time out? How will Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate fit in with all the new weapons of the offense? Can Noah Spence really be a big deal? And so on.

With the Bucs, there is pretty much a question for every day.


I want to see how the safety play sorts itself out.

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Let's see. You have Chris Conte, who may have made the biggest play of any in last season's upset of Kansas City. His end zone pick and 53-yard return was a huge play in a huge win.


Conte made a huge play against Kansas City./ANDREW J. KRAMER

And you have Keith Tandy, the closer. Tandy intercepted passes on the last offensive play by the Chargers and Saints last season. His instincts were superb. He also intercepted two passes in the finale against Carolina.

Add to that free agent J.J. Wilcox, who came over from the Cowboys. Wilcox had 38 starts over four years for Dallas.

Then there is second-round draft pick Justin Evans. The Bucs see cornerback quickness and linebacker toughness from Evans, who was certainly drafted high enough to be in the starting linebacker mix. He should be the safety the Bucs thought they had when they drafted Mark Barron.

Over the years, the Bucs have had solid safeties: John Lynch, Ronde Barber (who spent most of his career at corner, but moved to safety for his final season in 2012), Mark Cotney. And they've had bad ones: Sabby Piscatelli, Barron.

This time around, the Bucs need to have a solid secondary. They're going against some of the league's best attacks (New England, Green Bay, Atlanta, New Orleans) who have great quarterbacks and deep receiving corps.

Last year, for the first half of the year, the Bucs lacked playmakers at safety. It was only when the defensive backs caught on that the defense began to mesh.

Now, with an improved Vernon Hargreaves and with Brent Grimes at the corner, receivers are sure to try to find seams down the middle.

How far will the Bucs' go? It depends. On Winston. On Evans. On Jackson. On Howard. On the offensive line. On the pass rush.

And, yeah, on the safeties.

If the Bucs are solid there, they could surprise some people.

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