Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whinter has played multiple positions on the football field in his career with the Buffalo Bills. From the two safety to nickel corner back, Whitner has been the most versatile defender on the team.
In the off-season, news came out that Whitner would be moving to the free position full time, as veteran Bryan Scott stepped into the strong safety role. The move would help Whitner become more of the "center fielder" of the defense to create more big plays, something that he has been criticized for in his career.
It is now being reported by FoxSports and ProFootballTalk.com's Gregg Rosenthal that Donte Whitner could be playing a position he has never played before in his career; backup.
FoxSports.com reports that "Buffalo's coaching staff is eager to see Byrd in training camp at free. If he beats Whitner out, then Whitner, who is being supplanted at strong safety where he has started three seasons by veteran Bryan Scott, will be relegated to a utility role."
Rosenthal also added that "Buffalo is looking for more play making ability in their secondary and believes Byrd could provide it and that if Whitner loses the starting gig, he won't be moving back to nickel corner. He'll be a utility man at both safety spots."
While it may be true that Byrd, a former corner back selected in the second round of this year's draft, may be the starting free safety come September, it certainly doesn't mean that Whitner will be spending the year on the bench.
For starters, in order for Byrd to start, he will have to have a very strong training camp and preseason (he has already missed OTA's due to final exams), and even then it might be tough. He does have potential and has superb ability to intercept passes (17 interception during his three year college career) but he is learning a new position and it will take some time.
Remember the Bills didn't just trot out No. 11 overall pick Leodis McKelvin last season, even when starter Terrence McGee was playing through an injury. The coaching staff is not going to throw someone out on the field if they don't feel that he is ready.
If Byrd does perform well enough to start though, Whitner will be moved back to the strong safety position.
It is no knock on Scott, who is a serviceable vet, and plays very well against the run. Scott also plays the game very physical and does a good job at taking the opposition’s tight end out of the game, however, Whitner is still a better player overall. He is faster, a stronger hitter, and still has more upside.
The knock against Whitner is that he doesn't make enough plays. Writers and fans alike are quick to bring up the fact that Whitner has only two interceptions in his three year career. They don't, however, look at the fact that Scott has only four interceptions in his six year career and hasn't picked off a pass in the last two seasons.
A move back to the strong safety spot suits Whitner better in my eyes.
Whitner is great against the run and playing strong safety will keep him closer to the line of scrimmage.
He is a very strong hitter that should be attacking the ball carrier. Playing strong safety makes him like a fourth linebacker on the field in certain formations, a spot in which he thrives in.
Not to mention, that he is a great leader on and off the field. He wasn't just named team captain last season for no reason.
No matter if it is at free safely or strong safety, Donte Whitner will be starting in the 2009-10 season.
Playoff guarantee for the upcoming season? Not included.