Cornering the Market

Dwight Smith's excellent performance in Super Bowl XXXVII was unprecedented. His two interceptions that were returned for touchdowns were keys to the Buccaneers victory. His excellent play allowed the Buccaneers to let free safety and Super Bowl MVP Dexter Jackson be lured away to the Arizona Cardinals for a big money contract. Now Smith has been asked to play a position that he has never played before, free safety.

So how does the playmaker feel about his new position? "I love it. I get to run around and make plays and hit a few people." I asked Dwight what the main difference was in playing safety. "I have to be more true to my eyes because at the corner position you are locked in on one man. At the free safety position you have to cover the whole field." 

Brian Kelly, John Lynch and Ronde Barber round out the Buccaneers excellent secondary that has sent two or more players to the Pro-Bowl the last couple of seasons.

Defensive back coach Mike Tomlin gave his unit high praise following the morning practice. "You recognize that you are blessed to coach these special guys. They come and work hard day in and day out and because of that it's a pleasure for me to come to work."

When asked about the young talent he has, Tomlin offered these thoughts. "It's really too early to tell. We are trying to get the young guys to compete and understand the tempo of how we do things. There is so much competition here, but we tell them that the game is within them. We want them to understand that. We just tell them to bring their 'A' game and everything else will take care itself."

One of those young secondary players is Tim Wansley. The second year player out of the University of Georgia had an impressive day. During goal line drills, Tim stepped in front of an out pattern and picked off an errant Shaun King pass in the end zone. "Wansley made a great play," remarked coach Gruden. Wansley then turned on the after burners and sprinted down the sideline, much to the delight of his defensive teammates. Wansley also broke up a couple of passes while seeing extensive time on the second team defensive.

Another player that made his presence felt was cornerback Torrie Cox. The rookie out of Pittsburgh was involved in a multiple pass breakups. He also showed some speed on the kickoff team, sprinting down and often making first contact with the return man.

Safety John Howell also saw a lot of repetitions. He is a very good special teams player. Last year Howell played in all 16 games and is expected to be John Lynch's backup. Undoubtedly Wansley and Cox will be battling for a roster spot, but both showed signs of steady improvement while making plays.

While John Lynch receives most of the praise in the Buccaneer secondary, Dwight Smith has displayed great instincts in making big plays. His transition will be an intricate part of the team's secondary success. With his positive attitude and willingness to learn, Smith continues to grow and learn his new position.

Bucs Blitz Top Stories