With their first pick of the draft, the Bucs elected to add to an already beefed up defensive line with the selection of Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea. Their secondary needed much help, specifically safety, but felt they would grab the top defensive tackle instead.
Tampa Bay could have immediately bolstered their defensive backfield with drafting Florida State safety Derwin James. They did not for the simple fact they had Vea rated higher on their boards. A good rotation along the defensive front will almost certainly improve the secondary. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
That concern has resonated throughout many media circles, including on ESPN. In this latest piece discussing each team’s biggest hole, Andrew Potter writes why lingering problems in the Bucs secondary.
Safety is still the weakest of those positions: Keith Tandy and Chris Conte probably will open the season as the second and third safeties on the team, with fourth-rounder Jordan Whitehead easing into the rotation unless he excels quickly. Last season’s safety draftee, Justin Evans, was in the starting lineup by Week 5 and started 11 straight games; the weaknesses of the veteran incumbents give Whitehead every opportunity to follow in those footsteps.
Now, the positive thing about the Buccaneers safety situation is Justin Evans came on strong during the latter part of 2017. So the safety situation is not all bad, but there are still concerns.
Fortunately, 2018 fourth round pick Jordan Whitehead was a top recruit coming out of high school. While there could be hope for him at the pro level, his game is raw and would be a project for Mike Smith and the rest of the defensive coaches.
Best case scenario for Tampa Bay is that their defensive front truly succeeds so that it’ll by time for the safety position to work itself out. If not, we can see secondary issues similar to that of previous seasons. And that can spell very bad news for the Buccaneers.