Buccaneers Training Camp 2013: Previewing the position battle at safety

Matt Stamey-US PRESSWIRE

We round out our position previews for training camp with the safeties.

Currently on the roster: Mark Barron, Dashon Goldson, Ahmad Black, Keith Tandy, Cody Grimm, Sean Baker, Nick Saenz

The Starters

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers can make an argument that they have the best pair of starting safeties in the NFL. Dashon Goldson is coming off his first All-Pro selection, and despite receiving some (mostly unjust) criticism for his playoff performance, he is certainly one of the best safeties in the league. He has good range and anticipation as a deep safety and is very good at coming down from a deep position to defend the run. He can struggle a bit in one-on-one coverage at times,but the Bucs are unlikely to ask him to do a lot of that.

Mark Barron is extremely talented but needs to improve in coverage compared to last season. He went through a significant mid-season slump, where he looked a little lost at times. But at the end of the season and at the beginning of the season he was outstanding both against the run and the pass. He could thrive as an in-the-box safety with man coverage responsibilities on tight ends.

The Backups

With Ahmad Black and Cody Grimm the Buccaneers have a surprising amount of depth at a position that was a significant weakness just two seasons ago. Black was frequently asked to play as a third safety in nickel and dime sets toward the end of last season, and although his size limits him he generally won't be a liability at the position.

Grimm seems to have fallen out of favor with the Bucs, spending last season exclusively as a special teams player, and two offseason arrests for public intoxication won't help his case. He took a paycut to stay with the team, though, and he's a cheap, solid football player who showed the ability to be a pretty good starters a couple of years ago.

Keith Tandy's the wildcard, here. He was drafted as a cornerback out of West Virginia in the sixth round last year, but only got on the field as a safety late in the season. When he did, he didn't look out of place, although it's hard to evaluate a player on only a few snaps. He seems to be ahead of Grimm and could actually jump in front of Ahmad Black if he has a quality training camp.

Everyone else

Sean Baker and Nick Saenz round out the roster at safety. Baker was an undrafted rookie last season who did nothing until the final preseason game last year when he suddenly had two interceptions and a fumble recovery. Nick Saenz is in a similar position, except he didn't force three turnovers in his final preseason game last year. We'll see if either one can hang on to a roster spot, but it seems unlikely.

The Buccaneers may also look at a few cornerbacks and see if they can play safety, too. The undrafted free agents like Rashaan Melvin and Deveron Carr have enough physicality to potentially make the transition. If they can't show up in man coverage at cornerback, a position change may be in the cards.

Check out our Training Camp hub for the other position previews and everything you need to know about the Bucs' training camp.

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