COMMENTARY | Just when you thought the Tampa Bay Buccaneers might have hit a new low -- the bottom falls out a little bit more.
One day after squandering their third fourth quarter lead of the season, the team learned that they could be without starting strong safety Mark Barron after the Week 5 bye. Barron left Sunday's game versus the Arizona Cardinals in the third quarter with a hamstring injury and was immediately declared out for the rest of the game. He was a limited participant in practice all week with a hamstring pull, and appeared to aggravate the injury early in the second half.
The fact that he was ruled out right away suggests that he could miss multiple games. How does this affect the rest of the defense? Let's just say I'm thankful Tampa Bay is entering its bye week.
Don't let the big names of free agent acquisitions Darrelle Revis and Dashon Goldson mislead you -- Barron has been the glue keeping this revamped defense together. The Alabama-product leads Tampa Bay in total tackles, and is the only player in the secondary to record both a sack and interception.
His presence was sorely missed against Arizona, as quarterback Carson Palmer dissected Tampa Bay's defense for 248 yards -- 190 yards coming in the second half, after Barron was forced to leave the game.
Third-year player Ahmad Black will replace Barron at safety and is a clear liability in the secondary. He has shown good ball skills and instinct, but lacks size (listed 5-foot-10, but that's being generous) and speed -- his NFL Combine 40-yard dash time was 4.78. He's going to lose a lot of battles against physical receivers who'll use their size to out-jump him on long passes.
When one part of the body is hurting, the whole body suffers. If Barron misses more time, and based on Tampa Bay's 0-4 record, I believe he will, this secondary is going to get shredded. Black has little experience -- four games started in three years -- and is undersized for a NFL-caliber safety.
Expect Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles to test the Bucs' secondary early and often when they play Week 6 in Tampa Bay.
***UPDATE*** Josh Freeman isn’t the only Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter losing his job. In a rare mid-season move, Tampa Bay released starting wide receiver Kevin Ogletree and backup safety Ahmad Black early Tuesday. Black’s release suggests that Mark Barron’s hamstring injury isn’t as serious as originally reported. However, If he does miss any further action, second-year player Keith Tandy will fill in at strong safety.
James LoPresti lives in Tampa and has more than eight years experience working in print media with the Tampa Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @JLoPresti3114.
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