Observation Deck: Midseason Grades Part II

At the midway point the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 4-4 and still in the NFC South race. How have the Buccaneers' defensive players done this season? I set out to grade every defensive player of note so far in this edition of the "Observation Deck." How did your favorite Buc do? Find out in this exclusive premium piece.

DE Gaines Adams: His struggles were to be expected. Jon Gruden laid down a bit of a challenge to Adams on Monday, saying he expects better in the second half of the season. He has just 1 ½ sacks so far. Anyone expecting an immediate impact has been disappointed. Grade — C-

S Will Allen: He lost his job to Tanard Jackson, and has made only four tackles. However, he's made five special teams tackles, so he's contributing even though he's out of a starting job. Grade — C

CB Ronde Barber: He's provided steady play and broken up six passes. He has two interceptions against Tennessee overturned. Everyone's waiting for him to make a big play, but otherwise he's been solid. Grade — B

P Josh Bidwell: He's averaging around 43 yards per punt. He did a fine job pinning Jacksonville back several times last week. The blocked punt wasn't his fault. Grade — B

LB Quincy Black: Entering the Jacksonville game he was tied for the team lead in special teams tackles with eight. He hasn't seen the field on regular downs. Grade — B-

LB Derrick Brooks: Another usual year for Brooks, who is second on the team in tackles. He's not making the big plays he was in the past, but his play has been solid all around. Grade — B

CB Phillip Buchanon: Maybe the best cornerback on the team in terms of overall play. He leads the team in pass breakups and has taken to Monte Kiffin's Cover 2 scheme. Plus, his presence has softened the blow of Brian Kelly's groin injury. Grade — B+

DE Kevin Carter: He's a half-sack away from 100 for his career, but it's obvious he's not the dominant pass rusher he was. Opposite a dominant rusher, he'd be dangerous. But being one of the best ends on the line doesn't suit him anymore. His play has been good, but not great. Grade — B-

DE Patrick Chukwurah: He's been banged up all year, but when he's played he' been about what I expected — a speed rusher who can get to the quarterback, but not much else. I expected more, but the injuries have gotten in the way. Grade — C

DB Torrie Cox: Missed four games with a suspension, but made five special teams tackles in three games before getting hurt last week. He is now out for the season. Grade — C

DB Sammy Davis: Re-signed after Brian Kelly's first groin injury. He did well in nickel coverage in the home opener, and has settled into a special teams role. Grade — C

LS Andrew Economos: No botched snaps. That's all you can ask from a long snapper, especially when that's all he's there to do. Grade — B

DT Jovan Haye: Leads the defense in sacks and the defensive linemen in tackles. While not the burly under tackle the Bucs are used to, his combo of speed and pass-rush ability is providing welcome production at the position. Grade — B

LB Adam Hayward: Just two special teams tackles in eight games. I think he may not be developing as quickly as the Bucs expected. Grade — C

DT Chris Hovan: He's become a leader on defense. His play is almost unnoticed, and that's part of the point. He paves the way for the linebackers to get to the backfield. He consistently fights off double teams and remains effective against the run. He already has 40-plus tackles, a big figure for him at that nose position. Grade — B

S Tanard Jackson: The biggest impact of any rookie on the roster. From the start he's played with a veteran's savvy, making few mistakes. His coverage ability is a bonus. His unnecessary roughness penalty against Jacksonville was unfortunate, though. Grade — B+

LB Cato June: He's disappeared a couple of times. In fact, I've heard his name little the past few weeks. He played well up until the Indianapolis game. I think he'll be fine, but I'm hedging my grade because I expected a bit more. Grade — B-

CB Brian Kelly: I think he's on the way out. His injury problems continue to persist. He's great when he's healthy. But lately when has that been? Grade — C-

LB Ryan Nece: He's a backup now, but he's contributing heavily on special teams. A good locker room guy that everyone respects. Grade — B-

S Kalvin Pearson: One of the leading tackles on special teams. So respected by the Bucs that they signed him to a new contract when they didn't really have to. If he ever got injured, you'd see it in the coverage unit's drop in performance. Grade — B

DT Greg Peterson: Missed a big block on that blocked punt in Detroit. But he's been a little better than expected, shuttling in at under tackle and nose tackle. He has 1 ½ sacks so far. Grade — C+

SS Jermaine Phillips: Is this the real Jermaine Phillips? Let's hope so. His hard-hitting style and improved play is a big reason the defense is playing much better in 2007. Grade — B

MLB Barrett Ruud: He's made the Bucs look smart for committing to him. His play has been terrific throughout this season. He's been much better in pass coverage than I expected and he's forced three fumbles and picked off a pass. Grade — A

DT Ryan Sims: He was finally active for the first time last week against Jacksonville. But he barely played. Not worth the late pick the Bucs gave up for him. Grade — D

DE Greg Spires: He's had a solid season, but that's about it. He's exactly what we've come to expect. The Bucs need him, though, because he's probably the second-best run stopping end on the team. Grade — B-

LB Jeremiah Trotter: He's a good insurance policy if something happens to Ruud. But he's played just one game. Grade — C

DE Greg White: A pleasant surprise who has thrived in his first NFL action. He has 2 ½ sacks and is a better run stopper than you might think. Grade — B-

Other grades

S Sabby Piscitelli: Out for the season after being hurt against St. Louis. The Bucs were high on his special teams play, but he was never going to start this season. Grade — C

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.

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