To say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers look tough in the secondary this year is perhaps the biggest understatement I have heard concerning the team.
Darrell Revis will be making his first appearance this year as a Buccaneer, that much we know. What is somewhat left out of the equation, however, is how great of a supporting cast he has. From last year’s number one draft pick at strong safety, Mark Barron, to rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks who was the Bucs first choice of the 2013 draft from Mississippi State (43rd overall). Add two-time Pro Bowler and 2012 All-Pro Dashon Goldson, a 7-year league veteran from last year’s NFC champion San Francisco 49ers, to the depth chart, and you have one of the grittiest, nastiest secondaries in the league. Although the team is stacked in defensive backs department, it is a shame we will not see one of the greatest corners of our generation, last year’s team captain Ronde Barber, on the field for one last season. However, Ronde has accepted a role with Fox Sports, who will be televising the majority of the Bucs games this season, so we may yet see him in another capacity.
Decidedly so, the secondary is fairly set as such, with the major roles filled by the names above, but it is also exciting to see Eric Wright return at corner. Wright missed most of last season due to an injury to his Achilles and his presence was sorely missed, as the Bucs had the worst passing defense of the 2012 season in the NFL.
They definitely will not be last place this year. Coach Schiano has made certain of THAT.
But, for as much talent as they have on the backline, there are still many who say Tampa will never be a playoff contender, what with the NFC South rich with proficient gunslingers such as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and the first overall pick of the 2011 NFL draft, Cam Newton. With that need to rival the division passers met, all eyes go back to the Tampa frontman, Josh Freeman, to put up as many numbers and make his case as one of the top 100 players of this season. In fact, Freeman has yet to put up the numbers expected since his debut as a starting quarterback in 2010, with the following seasons littered with interceptions.
So, the question remains: will the glory days of the 2002 Super Bowl-winning “Tampa 2″ be back? Will this new era of Buccaneer defense be given another name to go along with that highly revered corps from a decade ago? It is difficult to see what predict exactly what kind of defense Coach Bill Sheridan will be unveiling this year, but for all intents and purposes, he has lucked out with the talent of this crew in his squad. I, for one, am very excited to see what this group has to offer at even the early stages of the 2013 season, as well as the coming years.
Given the talent, knowledge, skill, and preparation, this secondary already dubbed the “No Fly Zone” has the distinct possibility of rivaling every other in the league, as well as their 2002 counterparts.
Will they? Probably, in my opinion. Now we just have to see them in action against not just those of the NFC South, but of the National Football League as a whole.