Why Antoine Winfield Jr. is already one of the NFL’s best safeties

·2 min read

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were thrilled when they landed Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft, and the former Minnesota star has spent the past two seasons proving why.

The son of another versatile NFL defensive back by the same name, Winfield has quickly established himself as one of the most dynamic defensive playmakers in the league.

Doug Farrar of Touchdown Wire recently ranked the top 13 safeties in the NFL heading into the 2022 season, and Winfield came in at No. 5, despite having played just two years in the league:

Winfield is the Bucs’ primary free safety in Todd Bowles’ defense, but he can also run point in the box and the slot, and he’s an excellent blitzer. But let’s start with the coverage — specifically, the deep coverage. Winfield was a real problem for opposing offenses there, allowing two catches on targets of 20 or more air yards for 48 yards, and one of his interceptions.

Winfield is outstanding in his turns and transitions — not surprising for a guy who had his NFL dad teaching him the nuances of coverage from a very early age.

And if you’re a running back assigned to provide protection against a blitzing Winfield, you had better have downed all your Wheaties that morning. The Bucs had the NFL’s highest blitz rate in 2021, and Winfield is one reason Bowles and his staff are able to pull that off so well.

Winfield’s versatility, instincts and intelligence have made him a perfect fit in Bowles’ complex, aggressive scheme. He’s just as comfortable making plays in coverage as he is mixing it up in the box of getting after the quarterback on a blitz.

Heading into his third season, Winfield is coming off his first Pro Bowl nod, and it looks like he should have plenty more in his future.

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