Bucs DB coach Ron Cooper talked about the secondary, singling out both Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib as two of the smartest football players he has been around.
Buccaneers defensive backs coach Ron Cooper met with the media Thursday afternoon and discussed the state of the secondary, which, like the rest of the defense, struggled mighty at times last season. Cooper thinks 2012 will be better.
“A total combination (of youth and veterans),” Cooper said. “We have a great group of guys to work with and guys that want to be special, that want to be really good. They are anxious to learn in the classroom and on the field. There are no complaints and we look forward to being the best secondary we can put out there.”
The Buccaneers pass defense ranked 21st in the league last season, giving up an average of 238.4 while surrendering 30 touchdown passes. A reason for optimism according to Cooper, is the veteran presence of both Aqib Talib and Ronde Barber.
Talib has had a well-documented roller coaster career during his first four seasons in Tampa Bay. A talented – yet sometimes troubled player – Cooper thinks Talib has the potential to be something special.
“Talib – ever since I have been here – has done nothing but what we have asked of him,” Cooper said. “I am pleased with him right now. And he wants to be a really good defensive back – a great defensive back – and hopefully we can add to the things he already knows and give him couple of more tools to help him be the best corner he can be.”
Cooper talked about Talib’s strengths.
“He has great athletic ability, he has great toughness, he is very sudden,” Cooper said. “He is very smart. Very smart, probably one of the smartest DBs I have been around. He has to stay healthy (also).
“All I know is he wants to be really good and we are all going to work together to see if he can be the best he can be this year.”
In the process of beginning his 16th season in the NFL, Barber also talked to the media Thursday, and agreed with Cooper – Talib is loaded with potential.
“Aqib is incredibly talented,” Barber said. “One thing about Aqib’s offseason this year – and you can ask anybody in the building, he’s been here since February – I think he’s really committed… to changing that perception about himself. I admire him for that because he’s dealt with a lot in his four or five years he’s been with us. Those can’t be issues for him anymore. We got to talk about how good of a football player he is and let all of that other stuff just die away as it should be because he is incredibly talented, and his talent should speak for itself.
A luxury Cooper is looking forward to in his first season in the NFL is having Barber, who will be moving to safety, in his unit.
“We have a good group of young defensive backs and for them to be able to sit in with the meeting room with Ronde – who is a total professional – and watch him and watch how he studies, and watch how he works and takes notes and watch his attitude, is a plus for everybody,” Cooper said. “(Assistant defensive backs coach) Jeff (Hafley) and I are both in awe – here is a guy who is 36 or 37 years old and still has it. I didn’t know guys work like that after being in the league (like he has).”
Hafley chimed in when the topic of Barber was brought up.
“One of the smartest guys I have ever been around,” Hafley said. “One of the hardest workers in the classroom I have ever been around. It is unbelievable. And it is perfect for Mark (Barron) because you have a young guy come in and have a guy like him. That is special right there.”
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