I gave the game ball to Michael Koenen this week, mostly because there wasn't anyone else to give it to. But I can hand out a lot of "Least Valuable Player" awards this week. Two players really stood out to me, in a negative way: Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson, the two starting safeties.
Safety has been an issue for the Bucs for years now, but this past Sunday's performance was just abysmal. Absolutely horrific. Both Sean Jones and Tanard Jackson consistently missed tackles, were out of position and at times seemed to loaf. That's inexcusable.
Sean Jones' performance was perhaps the most surprising. Jones is no superstar, but he's been a generally solid player in his tenure with the Bucs, mostly as an in-the-box safety. He's been a decent tackler who hasn't been embarrassed much, but he lacks real speed and range. But on Sunday, he was anything but solid. It started with the first play of the game, when he blew the coverage that allowed the opening score. To compound that, he seemed to just jog downfield, and then missed a tackle. But that continued throughout the game: he couldn't make a tackle to save his life.
Tanard Jackson's performance hasn't been that surprising, though. Outside of his two interceptions the very talented but troubled safety has been largely invisible. Worse yet, he has looked soft. I hate to throw that word around, but I can't put it any other way: he plays soft.
It's not just that he's a little slow to react and isn't a great tackler right now. That's to be expected given the fact that he's been out of the game for over a year. What's really disturbing is that instead of playing through contact and making a hard tackle, Jackson slows down and seems to back off.
What's weird about this is this wasn't what he did before his suspension. He was undersized, but hard-hitting and sure-tackling. Jackson was anything but a liability as a tackler - but right now, he hurts the team when he is on the field.
Neither Jones nor Jackson couldn't figure out how to make tackles on Sunday. They were easily the weakest links on defense, and that's a real problem for a team that doesn't have a lot of different options at safety.