The Bucs secondary has never been a staple of the franchise and 2011 is no different. Tampa has made strides towards getting together a decent secondary but it’s spotty at best with only a few notable exceptions.
Hitting the halfway mark this year, the Bucs secondary is underachieving when compared to their performance last season. Aqib Talib was an interception machine and it seemed the Bucs could just about contain everyone to a certain extent. This year the secondary is almost as soft as the run defense but it’s much more mature which all the more troubling.
The Buccaneers issues at the cornerback position are just bad. There is no pretty way to illustrate the sheer frustration that is being had at the expense of the corners. Aqib Talib was supposed to be the heir-apparent to Ronde Barber’s reign as a top corner on this team. He can’t cover and he can’t stay out of trouble, not to mention is lack tackling skills.
The Bucs corner situation is not unlike that of many pitching rotation problems in baseball. For years the Minnesota Twins have prepared young pitchers in their farm system and have placed them in their rotation. And for all those years they claimed they were going to have the next-gen Atlanta Braves staff or something to that effect where all the guys stepped up. Wee can now look back fondly at those years with the walls of awards and trophies the Twins have wo– oh yeah, it didn’t pan out.
It didn’t pan out because the pitchers just weren’t that good. The same can be said about the Bucs corners, they’re just not that great. They’re not terrible, but they haven’t shown anyone thath they are capable of being a consistent threat to stop the pass.
It took one play for the Texans to score on an 80-yard pass the week after the halfway point. So the progression isn’t moving forward. Talib, Biggers, and all the corners just can’t cover consistently and they can’t tackle which is even worse. It’s worse because they allow the receiver to A) catch the ball (so fail number one right there folks) and they B) allow said receiver to get five, ten maybe fifteen yards after the catch.
These guys can still get coached up, but they don’t have the luxury of being as young as the defensive line is. That excuse is long gone for these corners and the consequences of them just not being that good are being felt. Maybe it’s the Man to ma coverage they can’t handle, maybe it’s the Zone coverage they can’t handle, the Bucs have tried both. Something isn’t going right with the corners and the rest of the defense is suffering mightily.
Now the safety spots aren’t great but they’re a massive improvement over the corners. The Bucs got Tanard Jackson back after a 54-week suspension and his impact was felt immediately. Sean Jones is starting to come into his own and is actually capable of tackling. They can’t do everything however and if they are having to assist the line with stopping the run, they can’t take a load off the corners and their in-ablilty to cover.
Think about all the big plays that have happened against this defense. Who do you usually see getting trucked over by a runner or a receiver? The corners. There has been times where they’re not at fault but more often then not they are. Darren Sproles took out Aqib Talib a few weeks ago and was only stopped because he tripped on Talib. That’s not a tackle by Talib, that’s not a tackle in any league, that’s poor defense.
And I pick on Talib because so much is expected of him and he’s playing like a third or fourth tier corner. That’s just not going to cut it and there is no other way to put it.
Mid-Season Grade: D-