Due to injuries and poor performance, the Bucs have started four different players at safety over the past two seasons. Eight different defensive backs saw time at safety in Tampa in 2010, and seven in 2011. It’s basically been a revolving door position two years running.
Gone are Tanard Jackson, Sean Jones, and Corey Lynch. Cody Grimm returns as a backup. Long gone is much-maligned Sabby Piscitelli.
In are former cornerback Ronde Barber and first-round pick Mark Barron.
Barber is now the starting free safety, while Barron is running with the first-team defense at strong safety. According to PewterReport.com, Ahmad Black has emerged as Barber’s primary backup, with Grimm working behind Barron.
A 2011 fifth-round pick, Black spent part of his first season on the Bucs’ practice squad. Since Barber will slide down to cover slot receivers in Tampa’s sub-package defense, Black is set up for a significantly bigger role in 2012.
“Oh yeah. For sure,” Black said. “When we go to dime, Ronde goes to the [slot] role and I go to free safety. I’ll do whatever I can for my team and do what’s best for us.”
Black also explained that the safety spots in Tampa are no longer considered interchangeable, as they were in old coach Raheem Morris’ Tampa-2 scheme. Under new head coach Greg Schiano, the Bucs use a true free safety and a more traditional in-the-box strong safety.
“The free safety is the free safety and the strong safety is the strong safety,” Black clarified. “We haven’t been interchanging. I’m just playing the free.”
(Photo credit: PewterReport.com.)