The Bucs Need a Playmaking Free Safety

TAMPA FL - SEPTEMBER 26: Receiver Mike Wallace #17 of the Pittsburgh Steelers catches a touchdown pass in front of defender Cody Grimm #35 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at Raymond James Stadium on September 26 2010 in Tampa Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)

That's what the Bucs really miss on pass defense: a playmaking free safety. They had one in the form of Tanard Jackson, until said Tanard Jackson decided that getting high with his buddies was worth more than his job in the NFL. That's a shame, because Jackson was really valuable for the Bucs. Over his three seasons starting he had 24 passes defensed and 8 interceptions. Compare that to the total output of Cody Grimm and Sean Jones in one season: a combined 4 passes defensed and 3 interceptions. That's a steep, steep dropoff. Part of the reason for that dropoff was the outstanding coverage of Aqib Talib, and part of it was Raheem's schemes moving Cody Grimm and Sean Jones away from the deep action. Grimm and Jones played relatively close to the line of scrimmage and didn't really come into play on a lot of pass plays. Of course, part of that may have been good scheme design and good play, as the Bucs didn't get burned for a lot of long touchdowns either. 

Still, a safety with good hands and tremendous range would look awfully good as a Buccaneer. Having someone like that roaming the deep half would add a new dimension to the defense, as it would allow Raheem to take more risks with the rest of the defense. It would also lead to more turnovers, as quarterbacks would be punished for taking deep shots, whereas now those deep balls just fall incomplete instead. 

Here's the bad news: there is no great safety with range in this draft. Not one. Here's the good news: Tanard Jackson will probably be back in football after two games next season. It remains to be seen whether he can be dedicated to football and leave the drugs behind him, but if he can, he could really provide a boost for this defense. And there's always a chance that Cody Grimm takes an offseason of work and turns it into better instincts and range as a deep safety. But I wouldn't count on it.

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