It looks like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are actually preparing to start D.J. Swearinger, the former second-round pick they grabbed off waivers last month. The Houston Texans had waived Swearinger, in part because he reportedly did not want to play special teams -- although Swearinger flat-out denied that to Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.
But yesterday, Lovie Smith talked up Swearinger after OTAs concluded.
"He's a very smart football player, staring off with that, good agility," Lovie Smith said. "We feel like we picked up a draft pick by getting a player like that. He can play the run. Again, good instincts, smart, everything you want to see a guy do, running around in underwear, he has been able to do well. His strong suit is supposed to be when he gets in pads, so we like him being on the team."
According to Yasinskas, Swearinger was working with the first team at strong safety yesterday.
That's interesting, because Swearinger hasn't actually been any good. He's talented, but his performance has been awful. Pro Football Focus ranked him 71st out of 76 qualifying safeties last year, and he hasn't done much in the NFL other than make a few big hits and commit some dumb penalties. It's certainly possible that the Texans cutting Swearinger somehow woke him up and got him focused on the NFL, magically improving his play, but that's a rare occurrence.
Especially so because the system Swearinger is coming to requires a very strict adherence to scheme and disciplined positioning. A safety may be talented, but that talent doesn't matter if he's not in the right place at the right time.
So I'm skeptical about Swearinger's newfound qualities. We'll have to wait and see whether those skills translate to minicamps and training camp -- actual, padded, physical practices. If they do, the Bucs may have found a gem on the waiver wire. But given Swearinger's history, it's hard to be optimistic.