Bucs need to seek upgrade at safety
Joe Henderson, The Tampa Tribune, published 27 September 2010

It's tempting to blame the 38-13 loss Sunday on Tanard Jackson. He wasn't here and the Buccaneers were strafed for three touchdown passes by Pittsburgh's Charlie Batch, who was starting his first game since 2007. Yes, Charlie Batch.

It only seems like Charlie is 58 years old. Truth is, he's 35, but he ran and threw like he was a young colt, compiling a 106.5 rating against a defense that thought it was pretty good.

The first of those passes was against rookie safety Cody Grimm, a seventh-round pick who was thrown into the stew late in the week after Jackson was suspended for at least a year. It was ugly, too. Grimm got turned around trying to keep up with Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace and what should have been an interception turned into a 46-yard touchdown pass.

"(Batch) threw up some balls that we had an opportunity to make a play on. I'll give them credit because they caught 'em but they should have been interceptions. You saw it. Don't pretend like it shouldn't have been," cornerback Ronde Barber said. "That's on us. If we're going to be a good team, we have to make those plays."

A lot of other things went wrong, too. The Bucs wouldn't have won this game with Tanard Jackson, nor did they lose it because of Cody Grimm. That needs to be said. "We definitely missed Tanard but Cody Grimm is a capable player," strong safety Sean Jones said. "We have a lot of confidence in Cody."

Tell you what, though. I still think General Manager Mark Dominik ought to get on phone and go shopping for an upgrade at safety. I know teams don't often make trades once the season starts in the National Football League, but there are compelling reasons to make an exception this time.

As one-sided as the loss was, it's still just one loss. Coach Raheem Morris made that point about the Bucs' 2-1 record from the moment he walked into the postgame interview room.

If the Bucs want to reach Morris' target of 10 wins this season, though, asking Cody Grimm to be the long-term answer for a Pro Bowl-caliber safety is a stretch. So get busy. The Bucs have a bye week now, the perfect time to seek an upgrade. As we know, they have (cough) room (cough) under the salary cap. Lots and lots and lots of room.

If the right fit is out there, what better message to send to the team than making a bold move? The Bucs will face Carson Palmer and Drew Brees in the next two games. They have two games remaining against Matt Ryan, plus a second encounter with Brees.

The secondary just lost a key member and replaced him with a rookie the Bucs took in the seventh round. I'm not trying to be unfair, just realistic. Cornerback Aqib Talib, a former first-rounder, was burned in this game as well. He had a pass bounce off his hands and into those of Wallace for another Pittsburgh touchdown. "Two of their touchdowns were interceptions (we should have made), really. We've got to make those plays," Barber said.

Indeed, basically anyone you want to name on the defense could have played better. There was no pass rush to speak of, and the Steelers ran for 201 yards. They only threw three passes in the second half while protecting the lead. So why pick on the rookie?

Because the Bucs have to try and get better. Thirteen games remain in this season, plus I'm highly skeptical that Jackson will play another game here once his suspension ends. Just consider him gone and look for a long-term answer. Instead of sitting on draft picks, be proactive.

No one I talked with in the Bucs' locker room after the game expressed that sentiment, by the way. No one threw Grimm under the bus. No one called for their general manager to get busy. They had the kid's back. That, too, should be said.

"Cody played pretty well. Obviously he didn't make a play on that ball (for the first Wallace touchdown), but (the loss) is not his fault by any means," Barber said. "You miss a guy like Tanard because Tanard is a great football player. Somebody has to step up."

Yes they do. The players and coaches have to step up. So does the general manager. So does the owner. Charlie Batch just threw three touchdown passes against the Bucs. The secondary needs help. Pick up the phone. If lines are busy, keep calling.