The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed T.J. Ward just as the season started, hoping that the former Pro Bowler would bring a presence and playmaking ability to the safety position that had previously been lacking.
So far, so good: Ward has two passes defensed and seven total tackles in two games, including one tackle for loss. Those three splash plays give him three more splash plays than starting safeties Chris Conte and Keith Tandy put together. So why isn’t he starting yet, and has he only been on the field for slightly more than 50% of the defensive snaps?
One reason might have been Keith Tandy’s previous penchant for big plays, but he has all of two tackles and no impact plays this year. That’s why his playing time is declining while Chris Conte (who has made an impact this year) gets to stay on the field, of course.
Ward could not have prevented last Sunday’s embarrassing performance just by being on the field more, of course. That was a collective defensive failure that no single player could have fixed. But there’s no real reason why Ward shouldn’t be on the field full-time.
Thankfully, his playing time was already significantly higher this past Sunday. Hopefully he won’t come off the field against the New York Giants—and if that’s the case, we should start seeing some turnovers and other key splash plays out of him, too.