The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need some help at safety. With Chris Conte on injured reserve, rookie Jordan Whitehead will be asked to play a critical role.
The door is open for Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead.
Tampa Bay placed starting safety Chris Conte on injured reserve, which will force him to miss the next eight weeks, if not more. Whitehead will now become a starter.
On paper, Whitehead is the favorite to take over for Conte. The fourth-round pick out of Pittsburgh has been the team’s clear-cut third safety.
The starting safety job is up for grabs now. Not just over the next few months, but in the long-term as well. The Buccaneers need help at safety. Aside from Evans, the rest of the roster is full of unproven players.
Whitehead is the only player who has the potential to be a starter for years to come. The rest of them are nothing more than stopgaps.
“He is a heat-seeking missile in terms of going after the ball,” defensive coordinator Mike Smith said regarding Whitehead on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that can really track the ball in the run game and when he gets to you he’s going to wallop you with a good punch.”
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Smith was pleased with his performance in the second half against the Steelers as well. Couple that with his strong play in Week two, Whitehead has shown flashes of starter-level play.
Forced into the starting spot, Whitehead will now play a massive role in a Buccaneers secondary which has struggled out of the gate.
On the season, Whitehead has accumulated 92 snaps along with eight total tackles. He’s been stout in the run game but hasn’t been targeted much in the passing department.
According to Pro Football Focus, quarterbacks have thrown to Whitehead twice. Conte, who played about 20 more snaps, was targeted six times.
PFF also graded Whitehead well in the tackling department, another nod to his attacking style.
Whitehead compliments safety Justin Evans well. Although both safeties aren’t afraid to make big hits, Whitehead can play in the box more effectively. While Evans roams centerfield, Whitehead will make his presence felt against the run.
In stints, Whitehead has proven to be a talented safety with promise. However, him playing full-time he will display flaws. The biggest concern for him is in coverage.
While he has the athleticism to stick with tight ends, Whitehead is on the smaller side. At 5’10” 198 pounds, he could have an issue against bigger matchups.
There will be a learning curve for Whitehead. With Conte opening up the season as the clear starter, the plan was to bring Whitehead along throughout the season, with the hope that he would eventually leapfrog Conte in 2019.
The opportunity is there for the taking. Jordan Whitehead can solidify himself as the starter alongside Evans and create a young, aggressive safety tandem.
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