Final Grades for the Buccaneers 2016 Season
DEFENSIVE BACKS: B
In a league with a general fan base which is more concerned with “what have you done for me lately” than anything, Keith Tandy will be the fan favorite coming into the Bucs training camp in 2017.
The “Tandyman” started just five games this season, but it was the last five, and he responded to his opportunity with four interceptions including two in the final game of the year.
He also had two games with double-digit tackles, a feat Chris Conte accomplished just once in 2016 despite starting six more games.
Speaking of Conte; the much-maligned safety has had his share of boo-birds and doubters while in Tampa, but then he earned many of them.
However, despite all this, he had two simply magnificent outings where he took one interception – courtesy of Daryl Smith pressure – to the house against the Bears, and had another just a week later on Alex Smith of the Kansas City Chiefs.
While the fans were starting to open their eyes to the possibility of a new Conte, he was injured and missed two games towards the end of the season, opening the door for Tandy to step in and become the hero.
Speaking of heroes; while he didn’t get much playing time on the defense this season, there wasn’t much better a moment for the Bucs than when Alterraun Verner secured an interception just days after the passing of his father right between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Even if you view Verner’s time as a Bucs player as a failure, part of you if not all of you had to feel for the man and find joy in his moment as his teammates swarmed him following the play. I for one certainly found myself with something in my eye at that moment.
Moving on to redemption stories; how about Brent Grimes? We’ve all heard the story of Grimes and his wife Miko whom many blame for causing him millions in dollars and for ostracizing the entire fan community of Miami.
I’m sure their bank account is just fine, and after securing at least four interceptions for the sixth time in his ten-year career, I don’t think the cornerback is short on fans either.
The only knock I have on Grimes this year is his apparent hate-hate relationship with the equipment manager. The veteran corner was slipping and sliding all over the field it seemed throughout the season and I can only come to the unsupported conclusion that the equipment managers hate him. Someone please get this man some good cleats!
Then there was the rookie: Vernon Hargreaves III, the Bucs’ first-round draft pick in 2016 and starting cornerback for his hometown franchise.
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The rook secured just one interception in his first year as an NFL player, but turned in solid play throughout the year, as long as you don’t count the game against Amari Cooper.
Never was there an outside run to his side where he didn’t have his hat in the mix somewhere and he tallied 68 solo tackles because of it, making him the second highest tackler in the secondary.
The first was safety Bradley McDougald. 79 tackles is how you support run defense, but he also came up with two interceptions as well.
There’s no telling how the starting safeties will align when the 2017 regular season, but one of the least talked about members was one of the more consistent.
For this group, the year started rough, and they gave up two 300-yard passers and nine touchdown passes in the first quarter of the season.
During the rest of the year however, they allowed just two more 300 yard passers and ten touchdown passes over their last nine games while falling one interception shy of the NFL lead in the category.