Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin made it clear the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need three, perhaps four, talented corners in 2008, especially for divisional play.
"When we go back to what we call the nickel package, last year we ran like 1,082 plays on defense and 42 percent of the time we played nickel," Kiffin said. "So we got to match up with three corners."
Kiffin later referenced the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs' opening-day opponent. The Saints use three wide receivers very often, making Talib a useful cog in Kiffin's defense.
"They run three wides on the field the first play of the game," Kiffin said of the Saints. "The third corner goes in and starts. He is like a starter. Now what if somebody gets hurt in preseason, that guy becomes a starter in base defense so really not only do we need three, we need four."
The Bucs now have Ronde Barber, Phillip Buchanon, Eugene Wilson and Talib. Barber is 33. Buchanon and Wilson are only signed through 2008. Talib could shoulder a lot of pressure very soon, potentially as the opening day third corner.
At 6-foot-1 he's the big corner the Bucs like to use in the Cover 2. But head coach Jon Gruden liked his versatility, too.
"It's good to have some guys back there with some ball-hawking skills that can cover man-to-man and instinctively play the football when it's in flight," Gruden said.
Talib isn't going to make the Bucs change their philosophy. But he allows them to mix more man defense into their rotation, thus throwing off opponents. Plus, since he plays the ball well and has good hands, the opportunity to force turnovers increases.
It's clear the Bucs perceive Talib as a player that can help them immediately.
"We didn't take him here in the first round to chart plays," Gruden said.
Dexter Jackson (second round pick, WR, Appalachian State)
Gruden is tired of the Buccaneers struggling on returns. It's been a consistent thorn in his side and he's banking that Jackson's preternatural speed can help.
"He can help us in the return game which is an area we wanted to get better at, not only punts but kickoffs," Gruden said.
But how much will he help? Jackson has 4.33 speed, but at ASU he only averaged 17.7 yards per kickoff return and 9.0 yards per punt return. That's a far cry from the kind of averages that Gruden is looking for. He'll have to improve those averages.
It's clear the Bucs want to use Jackson in the slot, similar to how the Patriots used Wes Welker last year. The Bucs don't expect Jackson to be as prolific, but Gruden talked about how Jackson might add to the offense immediately.
"You see him catch balls down the field, you see him catching quick screens," Gruden said. "If he can make one guy miss and find a crease he is capable of hitting it."
The Buccaneers see him as depth at wide receiver. He's a bit shy of 5-foot-10 and he'll have to compete with veterans for playing time. But at returner Jackson could have am immediate impact — and put current returner Micheal Spurlock out of a job.
"We think the guy has upside and explosive play making opportunities and we're eager to see what he can do," Gruden said.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. An award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he appears frequently on Scot Brantley Show from 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1470-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.