Bucs’ secondary should be a primary concern in free agency

When head coach Raheem Morris took over as defensive coordinator in Week 12, he inherited the 26th-ranked defense and a secondary among the worst in the league in allowing plays of 40-plus yards.

Despite their early season struggles, the Bucs’ defense finished among the top ten in the NFL against the pass. After Morris took over, the Bucs did not allow a 300-yard passer, allowing just six touchdowns through the air in as many games. Opposing quarterbacks averaged 204 passing yards per game on Morris’s watch, and eventual Super Bowl MVP Drew Brees threw for just 253 yards and one touchdown as the Bucs defeated the Saints in New Orleans in Week 16.

Still, with free agency . . .

 

. . . and the NFL draft approaching, the secondary remains a primary concern for Morris and general manager Mark Dominik. Though his play stabilized late in the season, strong safety Sabby Piscitelli got off to a slow start and struggled to adapt to former coordinator Jim Bates’s system. At cornerback, Ronde Barber, though he failed to intercept a pass, recorded his usual 69 tackles, forcing two fumbles and recovering one. On the other side, Aqib Talib recorded 56 tackles and a team-high five interceptions. The only concern at cornerback is Barber’s age, so there is a little breathing room in addressing cornerback, but not much. Free safety Tanard Jackson came back strong from a four-game suspension, tying Talib for the team lead with five interceptions and 59 tackles in just 12 games.

While Piscitelli recorded 66 tackles, more than Jackson or Talib, most of them came in run support. Teams began to pick on Piscitelli early in the year after the CowboysTony Romo torched the Bucs' secondary, most notably Piscitelli, for 42-, 66- and 80-yard touchdowns and a total of 353 yards through the air in Week 1.

The free agent pool is deep with veteran talent and youth to address the strong safety position if Piscitelli cannot turn it around in 2010, the final year of his contract.

For the next three days I will break down free agents the Bucs will likely look at to address the safety position. I'll discuss two players each of the next three days to explore different options. Morris was the defensive backs coach before shooting up the ranks to head coach, so that unit is likely near the top of his offseason shopping list. Let's see who's out there that the morris camp might have their eye on.
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