In Sports Illustrated’s offseason preview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a troubling stat appeared on 2012 rookie Mark Barron.
The rookie allowed 24 first downs and touchdowns which was the third-highest among safeties.
Drafted No. 7 overall in the 2012 NFL Draft he was drafted to cover the best tight ends in the game, but according to the preview by Tom Mantzouranis “Expecting him to cover the league’s athletic tight ends as a rookie was too much.”
By playing in the NFC South, they face three teams with dominant tight ends six times a year. Jimmy Graham, Tony Gonzalez and Greg Olsen are large tight ends that can give defenders problems.
Week 1, Olsen: 6 -56
Week 7, Graham: Did not play
Week 11, Olsen: 2-42
Week 12, Gonzalez: 5-62
Week 15, Graham: 5-69
Not once did Mark Barron allow a touchdown to the “Big 3 TE’s” of the NFC South. Week 17, Gonzalez: 5-41
According to Mantzouranis, “He’s never going to be an elite coverage safety. The answer is to surround him with better talent.”
Barron had his hands full, especially after losing Aqib Talib, but when the Bucs selected Barron seventh overall they were not drafting just an ordinary safety. They were drafting him that high because they knew he would be elite at some time.
Dead last in pass defense the Bucs defense was frustrated and the emotions of giving up play after play take a toll on a rookie.