Yardbarker Horiz

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Tanard Jackson Question

In 2009 the Buccaneers suffered through the most difficult win/loss record since 1991.  It was a tumultuous year following an offseason of major changes.  A new front office came in and a group of old veterans moved on.  With a change in leadership the Buccaneers needed all the experienced players it could mould from within.

Then, just before the 2009 season, the Buccaneers found out that Tanard Jackson would be suspended for the first four games of the season.  It created an experience void in the defensive backfield the team struggled with the first month of the 2009 season.

Jackson returned to the team and moved back into the starting lineup finishing sixth on the team with 60 solo tackles, adding 11 assists, 2 forced fumbles, and five interceptions scoring touchdowns twice.  Clearly Tanard Jackson is an impact player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  And while his standing within the locker room appears to have been restored, there is still a big question mark which looms over his head.

One more mistake and Tanard Jackson sits out the season.

The two strikes penalty for substance abuse in the NFL is, unfortunately, well known.  Every time the punishment is handed down it makes headlines across the sports world.  Nobody expects the NFL to need this option with Tanard Jackson.

This is not a rehash of old mistakes, this is a front office dilemma which impacts the team and the roster for as long as Jackson is a Buccaneer.  So this is a personnel issue and deserves scrutiny.  Unfortunately, after the first strike, the threat of another mistake never goes away.  The team struggled without Jackson on the field -- imagine a full year without him.

How will General Manager Mark Dominik deal with this unknown?  Will it be important to keep an additional safety on the roster this season, just in case?  Or is it a matter of crossing the fingers and hoping there is something worthwhile on the wiaver wire should the unthinkable happen?

With Jackson holding down a starting position, Dominik is almost forced to carry one extra safety on the roster.  It is not practical to assume a waiver wire pickup would have any knowledge of the Tampa Bay defensive reads or responsibilities.  That is, a waiver pickup means a loss of coaching time getting an unfamiliar player up to speed.  Instead it would be better to have a player who has been through training camp ready to step forward, or step into second on the depth chart (and the resulting part time game day responsibilities), easing the impact to the rest of the safeties and, even, the rest of the team.

There is also a long term component to this issue -- essentially Tanard Jackson now requires two roster positions.  Is he worth it?  For how long?  Certainly, at this point, the team must consider him valuable since he is still on the roster.

But there is still this unease for me regarding the safety position.  Two experienced Buccaneer safeties have become unrestricted free agents:  7th year veteran Will Allen (singed Pittsburgh) and  8th year veteran Jermaine Phillips (unsigned, perhaps done).  Phillips was the first option when Jackson was suspended last year -- not anymore.  This two-player void has been filled by 7th year free agent acquisition Sean Jones (from Philadephia).  Is it enough?

These questions must have been discussed during the run-up to the 2010 Draft.  One safety was drafted (Cody Grimm, 6'1" 203 lbs, 7th round pick) but this seems to be the normal player churn and not a bold move to replace anyone in particular.  In fact, Dominik has stated the 7th rounders are likely to earn their way onto the field through special teams.

So it appears there is no rush to supplement the roster at this point, nor is there a signal for a long term fix.  Perhaps the Buccaneers are confident that Jackson has put whatever happened in 2009 behind him.  Let's all hope so.  We'll have to watch carefully during the offseason and preseason to see if there are any indicators of the team's thinking on this point.

But the bottom line is to hope and cheer for Tanard Jackson to keep things on the straight and narrow and play the game we all love to watch. 

Be careful, Tanard!!  We need you!!

1 comment:

  1. And so it comes to pass. As stated in http://bucsstowaway.blogspot.com/2010/05/tanard-jackson-question.html, Mr. Jackson is now out for the year and the Bucs have a gap to fill.


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