Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Who Steps Up If Aqib Talib Is Out?
Surely the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a contingency plan in place.
After all, they've had all offseason to ponder the very real possibility that their best cover corner, Aqib Talib, could be sentenced to significant jail time—five to 20 years—depending on the outcome of his criminal case in Texas, which is scheduled to begin late next month.
But again, I'm sure the Bucs have the whole what-if-Talib-goes-to-jail thing under control.
So while it can be assumed Wright would step into Talib's role and Barber would end his safety experiment to return to corner, which Buc not named Wright or Barber would the Bucs need to step their game up the most?
As of today, the Bucs have six choices on roster they could choose from:
One look at the above-mentioned players, and two thoughts initially come to mind:
- Boy these guys are young. Their average age is a very-green 23.8 and collectively they have 11 years of NFL experience.
- Their apparent weakness—age—may also be a strength, in the sense that they are still very much coachable and are likely willing to accept whatever coaching they receive.
So of the group mentioned, which player is best-positioned for success in 2012?
Conventional wisdom may suggest one of the two players with the most experience—Biggers or Lewis—would have a leg-up on the others because of their familiarity with NFL competition.
Because, frankly, you can't discount the benefit of having in-game experience, which both Biggers (32 games, 12 starts) and Lewis (20 games, one start) have.
That said, my gut tells me Gaitor shouldn't be overlooked heading into training camp.
Who is most-likely to step their game up this year?
After all, he was a four-year starter at Florida International, with 49 games of collegiate experience under his belt.
I know the Sun Belt Conference doesn't exactly offer high-caliber, NFL-ready competition, but it's collegiate competition nonetheless and that has to mean something, doesn't it?
It's likely too early to expect much from Johnson and Tandy, outside of maybe special teams contributions.
Which leaves Roberson as the only other (current) option.
He played for Greg Schiano at Rutgers, so his familiarity with how the coach operates certainly can't hurt his chances, although he has bounced around with five different clubs since entering the NFL in 2007, so I'm not sure how truly effective he can be.
All of which brings us back to Biggers, Lewis and Gaitor.
Short of signing a June 1 cap-casualty or making a trade, for, say, disgruntled Cowboys corner Mike Jenkins, the Bucs would have to choose an in-house candidate to step up in Talib's possible absence.
Although the memories of last year's secondary may still haunt many Bucs fans, it's important to remember the above-listed players have different coaches, who are running a different system with a different level of accountability than the previous regime.
Come to think of it, maybe that has been the front office's contingency plan all along.
To bring on better, more-competent coaches to teach their young, impressionable talent.
But just as it always seems, time is of the essence.
With each passing day, the young Bucs fall farther behind their opponents, which is something Coach Schiano is cognizant of, often mentioning "1440"—the number of minutes in each day.
And judging by word coming from One Buc Place, the coaching staff isn't wasting a single one of them.
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