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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Are Sean Jones and Sabby Piscitelli really in position battle?



The Bucs have maintained that Sean Jones and Sabby Piscitelli are locked in a tight race to become the starting strong safety opposite free safety Tanard Jackson.

And that is no doubt the right approach, as opposed to handing someone a starting job months before opening day.

But the question remains: Should we buy it? In other words, is coach Raheem Morris really just giving us lip service when he says the two are neck and neck?

"They'll go out there and compete and compete hard," Morris said during last week's minicamp. "That's the beauty of OTA days. That's the beauty of training camp -- watching guys compete and watching guys who want to play. I'm really enjoying the competition. . . To both men's credit, they've been really complementing each other when they have to play together."

Here are the facts. Jones was one of just a handful of roster additions this offseason, and he just happens to play the same position as Piscitelli, who had a very long 2009 campaign in his first year as a starter. Jones has the better resume' and his strength is an area in which Piscitelli struggles (being physical and making tackles). But Jones, a former Eagle and Brown, also has proven himself adept at getting his hands on the ball, with 16 interceptions and 35 pass deflections in the past four seasons.

To be fair, it should be pointed out that Piscitelli has had some good moments during the offseason. But what worries his coaches is his history of slow decision-making and incorrect decisions when in coverage or when providing help to cornerbacks. Many of those instances have resulted in long gains or touchdowns for opponents.

Piscitelli can still close the gap with a strong preseason. And the Bucs have repeatedly said they plan to play a three-safety rotation that includes Jackson, Jones and Piscitelli.

Still, because Piscitelli has been so consistently inconsistent, there is little reason to think that Jones won't be in the starting lineup on opening day -- even if the Bucs aren't prepared to say so.

[Last modified: Monday, July 19, 2010 2:42pm]


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