NFL.com's Around the NFL crew really doesn't seem to like the Tampa Bay Buccaneers very much. After naming their offensive line the worst in the NFL (fair enough), they've now called the Bucs' safeties the worst in the league, and their defensive line the second-worst. We've talked about defensive ends quite a bit, so I'd like to focus on the safeties instead.
Lovie Smith has reunited with Chris Conte and Major Wright after watching the oft-injured safety duo get burned on a regular basis in Chicago. What makes him think the results will be different 1,200 miles south? A potential silver lining is Bradley McDougald, a former undrafted free agent who showed promising signs while stealing snaps from Dashon Goldson late last season.
I'll freely acknowledge that none of these names are exciting, but all of them have one thing in common: they understand the system, and that's the main thing you need to be productive as a safety in a Tampa 2 defense. Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron were flashy names, but they struggled to adapt to the Tampa 2, which is why they're now playing for other teams.
Moreover, Bradley McDougald and Major Wright both played well last year. The former started five games and managed 40 tackles and seven passes defensed, as well as one interception. That's a really impressive total over such a short time. Major Wright made less of an impact, with 35 tackles and one pass defensed in seven start, but he was still solid -- certainly not a liability the way some other safeties were.
Of course, the main addition this offseason was Chris Conte, someone who's been one of the worst safeties in the NFL over the past two years. The mitigating factor here is that he was much better when playing under Lovie Smith, which is exactly what he's going to do now. Conte isn't a savior, but he's another player who can step in and be a solid contributor to the defense.
Overall, that's okay! There are no stars in this unit, but it's not a bad group. I would be pretty surprised if safety turned out to be the biggest problem with this defense -- and if it is, that may actually bode well for every other position group.