The Buccaneers are extremely thin at cornerback.
But even though they have one guy who used to be really good at it, they’re hesitant to move Ronde Barber back from free safety.
“We just feel comfortable with what we’re doing right now,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said, via Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune. “I’m not going to say that that would never happen. But that’s not what we want to do right now.”
With Eric Wright suspended and Aqib Talib pawned off on the Patriots, the Bucs are down to starting E.J. Biggers and undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson at corner, with journeyman Danny Gorrer in their nickel package.
The results have been about like you’d expect.
The Bucs are last in the league in pass defense, allowing 315.5 yards per game, or more than 14 yards per game more than the 31st-ranked Redskins.
Barber has five Pro Bowls on his resume playing cornerback, but there’s a reason he’s inside. As much as he’s helped rookie Mark Barron, the 37-year-old lacked range in recent years, and playing safety’s probably the only thing keeping him from hanging out with his retired brother Tiki.
Barber said he didn’t think the Bucs current situation was “an emergency,” that would require him moving back, there have been moments where he’s had to reprise old roles. When they go to their dime defense, he becomes a de facto nickel corner, playing over the slot, a position from which he can cover or blitz. Making him the nickel doesn’t seem like that big a leap, but Schiano didn’t seem inclined to make changes at multiple positions.
“I kind of like his command back there [at safety], and he and Mark are working together,” said Schiano. “Absolutely, that comes into play. When you make position changes you [have to ask], ‘Do you want to move two guys?’ because now you’re jeopardizing two [positions] rather than one.”
The reason Barber doesn’t seem to be pushing for the job is probably a case of late-career realism. In a division full of top-flight receivers, Barber was exposed a bit in recent years, and moving back onto the island probably wouldn’t be good for the Bucs’ present or his legacy.