Cody Grimm was a revelation this season. After giving up an early touchdown to Mike Wallace in his first start in place of Tanard Jackson he played very well the rest of the season, and losing him to a leg injury really hurt the defense. But despite his stellar performance this year, there's a chance Cody won't even be in the lineup by midseason next year. Not because of his injury, because while a leg injury isAll because one other player is returning to the team after a lengthy absence.
Tanard Jackson got suspended for failing a 3rd drug test in just his 4th year in the NFL. He'll be suspended until at least the second week of next season. And there's no guarantee he's going to be back: he has to apply for reinstatement with the league, and while the requirements for reinstatement are unknown, I think it's safe to say that being off drugs and regular testing are part of the deal. But if he does get reinstated, he'll be under contract for the Bucs through the 2011 season. If the Bucs get a clean and fit Tanard Jackson thrown into their lap, they're going to bring him back. It may take a while for him to assimilate the playbook and get reacquainted with the game, but once he does, he will be the starting free safety. Because he simply has too much raw talent not to be. Cody Grimm was great this season, but he doesn't have close to Tanard Jackson's physical skills.
So where does that leave Cody Grimm, the resplendent rookie? Will he move to a backup role as Tanard Jackson takes the forefront? That's a distinct possibility, but only if he loses a battle with Sean Jones. The starting strong safety was a solid player this year but didn't offer much in terms of splash plays. He was unspectacular, but solid at what he did: stopping the run. The thing is, Cody Grimm is better at stopping the run than Sean Jones is. Grimm is one of the most solid tacklers on the team, and he excels at dropping into the box and finding the ball carrier. That's a role where he can shine, probably moreso than as a deep safety.
This won't be a position battle you'll see before the season. In training camp, the coaches will be preparing for Cody Grimm to be the starting free safety, because they won't know anything about Tanard Jackson at that point. But some time during the season, I expect you'll see Tanard Jackson starting and Cody Grimm starting next to him.