The NFL is changing, and hybrid players on both sides of the ball are at the core of those changes. That's the message of Greg Bedard's column on the New England Patriots' concepts on defense and offense. Hybrid players, in this case, are tight ends and the players who can stop them both in the run and pass game. The Bucs lack the quality at tight end to have those hybrid players on defense, but they have plenty of them on defense - and accumulating them has been a point of interest for the Bucs this offseason. Specifically, Mark Barron and Lavonte David are two players who will be used to stop those tight ends. Both of them have the power and skill to function as run defenders, while they're fast and athletic enough to still win versus tight ends in the passing game. You'll see both in man coverage on tight ends during the season, and Barron specifically will be asked to do that a lot.
One of the players who used to be that hybrid player for the Bucs was (and still is) Ronde Barber. And, of course, he talked to Greg Bedard for that story, giving his thoughts on defending those tight ends. That's especially interesting because Barber knows what the Bucs are trying to do to stop them right now. And with Jimmy Graham in the division, they need to find a way to stop them.
"That guy is important now," said Buccaneers veteran defensive back Ronde Barber. "Whether he's a safety first or a corner first, you definitely need somebody who is skilled enough to be able to match up with a wideout or a tight end. I know we've had issues with it over the years. Even the past two years, we'd bring in another corner and let the corner cover the tight end because of the matchup athletically. So it's a continuing issue and as these more and more athletic-type tight ends come in, it's tough to deal with.
"It's hard to see how this deal doesn't continue where every team is going to have a guy like that. I know that's what they look for. You look for those types of guys now in the draft."
Again, I'd suggest you read the entire story because it's relevant for a lot more than just the Patriots, and a lot of this gives us some insight into the things the Bucs and other NFL teams are trying to do on defense. I think the Bucs have at least added the right personnel to stop the new hybrid players in the NFL, but we'll have to wait and see for now.