Let's not write off Barber just yet
When Phillip Buchanon signed with the Lions on Wednesday, it gave us a better picture -- for better or worse -- of what the Buccaneers' secondary is going to look like.
Without Buchanon in the picture, we can say without reservation that Aqib Talib will almost certainly be in the starting lineup. And, somewhat surprisingly, Ronde Barber appears to also be penciled in as a starter, too.
Yes, a lot can change between now and opening day. And it probably will.
Whatever happens, Talib -- in my opinion -- is a lock. As for Barber, we'll see. If you've been reading this blog or any of my stories in the newspaper, you've probably realized that I have not been referring to Barber as a starter in the Bucs' new defensive scheme. I have a feeling Barber himself might also have noticed this (If so, hope you didn't take it personally, R.B.). The way defensive coordinator Jim Bates explained it to us, it is going to be a scheme that's heavy on man-to-man coverage. That would seem to be something that's not a strength of Barber's, who has played his whole career in the Tampa 2.
But maybe we were wrong. Maybe the Bucs are going to give Barber a shot at playing on an island and be willing to live with the results -- good or bad. Whatever role Barber plays, we know where he'll be in the nickel defense: in the slot giving the quarterback fits. Will he blitz, fall into coverage or who knows what? That's where he's at his best.
Another consideration is that we'll see a lot more of Elbert Mack, who I think is someone the Bucs are very high on. Mack played a decent number of snaps last season, and he never really got exposed. He has closing speed and he's more physical then you'd expect for a guy who weights 175 pounds soaking wet. He'll be even better in his second year. I see him as the third cornerback, at the very least.
As for Barber, maybe we wrote him off too soon. I know this much about Barber: he loves to make people eat their words. The way things are shaping up, he might have a chance to do that.