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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs' Barber could move to corner, staying put for now

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 02:35 AM

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TAMPA -

For all Ronde Barber knows, the topic has never been discussed, at least not by his superiors. If it has, no one bothered to mention it to him, though he would willingly oblige if asked.

"I'm sure I could step back in there,'' Barber said of returning to cornerback, the position he played for 15 years before moving to safety at the start of this season. "I've paid attention to what they're doing over there.''

Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano doesn't disagree. He believes the five-time Pro Bowl corner would make a smooth transition back to his old spot. He's not about to ask him to do it, though — at least not yet.

Though Tampa Bay is down to second- and third-team reserves at the position, Schiano said he has no plans to try to improve the league's worst pass defense by moving Barber back to cornerback.

"We just feel comfortable with what we're doing right now,'' Schiano said. "I'm not going to say that that would never happen. But that's not what we want to do right now.''

For his part, Barber doesn't see the need for him to move. He doesn't consider the situation at cornerback to be "an emergency," even though the numbers being posted by opponents are on the rise.

A month ago, the Bucs were allowing 309.6 passing yards per game. Now, after giving up 353 yards through the air to Atlanta last week, they're allowing 315.5 passing yards per game.

And it's not like help is on the way. The Bucs traded left corner Aqib Talib to the Patriots four weeks ago and lost starting right corner Eric Wright to a four-game suspension on Monday.

The fallout from all that has Tampa Bay starting fourth-year veteran E.J. Biggers (19 starts) at left corner, undrafted rookie Leonard Johnson (two starts) at right corner and third-year journeyman Danny Gorrer (one start) at nickel back.

That, at least, is the position Gorrer assumed against the Falcons. Whether he retains that spot in Sunday's game against the Broncos and quarterback Peyton Manning is uncertain.

Though Schiano said he was pleased with the way Gorrer handled himself in an expanded role, he hesitated to officially name him the third or nickel cornerback going forward.

"I don't know if I'm ready to say that,'' he said. "We have some young guys here that are not very experienced, and so we're just kind of playing our hand as we feel it is best.''

The hand the Bucs have played when they use a "dime'' defense alignment that calls for six defensive backs usually has Barber moving out of the deep secondary and closer to the line of scrimmage. That role is similar to how Barber often played in the past, when he moved to slot corner on obvious passing downs. From there, he could blitz or stay in coverage against the slot receiver.

It was in that role that Barber built a résumé worthy of Hall of Fame consideration — he entered this season with 43 career interceptions and 27 sacks. While Schiano acknowledged using Barber at nickel corner is an option, he didn't seem eager to use it.

"I kind of like his command back there (at safety), and he and (rookie safety) Mark (Barron) are working together,'' said Schiano, who admitted to being concerned about weakening what he considers to be a strong safety tandem.

"Absolutely, that comes into play. When you make position changes you (have to ask), 'Do you want to move two guys?' because now you're jeopardizing two (positions) rather than one.''

Not that the Bucs don't have a sound option to replace Barber at safety. With 18 tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble, first-year pro Ahmad Black has been a capable ball hawk.

"Yes, Black has played a lot of football for us now — 11 games — so (using Barber in the slot) is a viable option if we want to rotate,'' Schiano said. "We do have some flexibility there. But one thing Peyton does is change the tempo on you. If you try to match up or change personnel on him, he's going to speed it up and get you with 12 guys on the field.

"So, we have to really be very, very careful when we make our substitutions and that's why there needs to be a plan to it. You can't just kind of do it like a regular game where you (say), 'Oh, they've got three (receivers), so let's go ahead and do it.' That is not going to work."

 

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