Tampa Bay Buccaneers
As poorly as things have gone for the Buccaneers and their safeties in recent years, things appear to be on the upswing. Last off-season the Bucs invested a second round pick in safety Justin Evans, who would go on to start eleven games as a rookie while contributing three interceptions, which was tied for most on the team. One of those picks came in week five, against some guy named Tom Brady. He also notched a season-high nine tackles in that game.
Entering year two, Evans is locked into the starting free safety position and has tons of upside to build on his solid rookie season. Joining Evans in the Buccaneers defensive backfield is a rag-tag gang of veterans, and one rookie newcomer.
Chris “White Unicorn” Conte has been maligned by Buccaneer fans almost universally over the last three seasons for blown coverages and iffy tackling. The Conte hate is definitely unfair, and at least somewhat a result of people jumping on the trendy bandwagon. Though he’s certainly not a world-beater, there are many teams in the NFL giving snaps to much worse players than the Unicorn. For what it’s worth, Conte was second on the team in pass breakups last year with eight and third on the team in tackles with 77 total.
Joining Chris Conte at strong safety is long-time Buccaneer Keith Tandy, who will be entering his seventh season with the team since being drafted out of West Virginia back in 2012. Tandy is reliable and versatile, having played both safety positions in his time with the Bucs. It’s anyone’s guess what type of production they’ll get from Tandy this year, but he will certainly get an opportunity to get a lot of snaps.
Lastly we have the rookie wild card, Jordan Whitehead, who the team selected in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Whitehead is hard to make heads or tails of, because he has traits that are ill-suited for either safety position – he’s a bit too small to play near the line of scrimmage consistently as a strong safety, and doesn’t have the pass breakups or interceptions on tape to prove he can consistently play free safety. For now he’s a project player with the talent and physical upside to be much more.