Dashon Goldson is the Buccaneers' most underrated player

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Dashon Goldson has caught a lot of flak since signing a massive contract last year. But much of that criticism is inaccurate or undeserved -- and he'll be a massive part of the team's success this year.

If we're talking about overrated players, generally speaking, players that earn a lot of money come up very, very frequently. No one cares if, say, Keith Tandy isn't good: he doesn't make a lot of money. No reason to hate him up. But woe be ye who earns money and is injured, or makes a high-profile mistake. That's when the vitriol starts.

So too with Pete Prisco, reviewed the tape (or as much of it as he can, given that no one can watch a lot of tape on every NFL team), and decided that Dashon Goldson and Demar Dotson were the most overrated and underrated Tampa Bay Buccaneers, respectively.

Overrated: S Dashon Goldson ­­-- Big hitters are not the way of the future at the safety spot. When they signed him last season, I knew it would be a bad-value signing. And it was.

Underrated: T Demar Dotson ­­-- He was one of the few bright spots on a bad line last season. At 26, he's got a lot of good football in front of him.

You'll get no argument from me when it comes to Dotson. He's not perfect, but he's a really good offensive tackle, especially in pass protection. And yet, I constantly see outside analysts write him off because they don't know his name. You could make a serious argument that he should have been in the Pro Bowl last year.

This Dashon Goldson hate has to stop at some point, though. For one, calling him overrated is somewhat hilarious given the fact that everyone and their aunt seem to be berating the guy at every step. And some of that is deserved: he didn't quite live up to his contract numbers last year. But he was far from a bad safety, and many of his faults are massively exaggerated. In fact, I would argue that he's actually one of the most underrated Buccaneers out there, if we're simply talking about his play rather than his contract.

It's easy to point out Goldson's penalties and fines as evidence that his 'style' is out-of-date, that big hitters aren't what you need at the safety position. That would be a fine argument if that was all he was -- but he's not. He's a quality run defender when lined up as a deep safety (an underrated skill for the position and crucial in the Bucs' new scheme), and he has the ability to be a very good deep safety in coverage, although there were a few too many coverage busts last year. Yes, he can struggle in man coverage at times, but that's quite easily circumvented by not putting him in man coverage on Jimmy Graham.

Moreover, the effect of Goldson's penalties has been hugely exaggerated. Six flags for 76 yards is too much, certainly. But no one talks about Gerald McCoy's eleven penalties for 91 yards, or Mark Barron's six for 83 yards. Fact is, Goldson's penalty yardage really isn't out of the ordinary for the position. He has to be smarter about his hits, absolutely, but that wasn't a crippling issue for anyone or anything but his bank account.

If you want to knock Dashon Goldson, don't point to his penalty yardage or his big hits or his style of play. None of that is a real concern. The problem last year was solely the fact that he was involved in too many busted coverages. There's plenty of reason to believe that with the new coaching staff and a scheme that emphasizes simplicity and speed-of-play, those issues will be diminished or will disappear entirely.

If I look at the skillset of Mark Barron, I see an outstanding box safety with man coverage skills, who can play like a linebacker in nickel sets. That's Mark Barron -- and that was John Lynch on the old Buccaneers. When I look at the skillset of Dashon Goldson, I see Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson: the man roaming the deep field, looking for turnovers and acting as the last line of defense. Jackson excelled in that role with the Buccaneers. Goldson will do the same thing under Lovie Smith.

Mark my words: in one year's time, we'll be talking about how Dashon Goldson was a key part of an outstanding Tampa Bay defense.

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