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Tampa Bay didn’t have the right fit at strong safety with former first-round draft pick Mark Barron. They confirmed that thinking this week by shipping him to St. Louis for a pair of later-round draft picks in 2015.

By not making any moves to bring in additional help at the safety position before Tuesday’s trade deadline, the Bucs also showed they’re hoping for an addition-by-subtraction outcome.

Fifth-year veteran Major Wright now moves into Barron’s starting role at strong safety and second-year pro Bradley McDougald becomes the team’s primary backup for both Wright and free safety Dashon Goldson. Tampa Bay’s only other safety on roster is Keith Tandy.

Wright has appeared in all seven games this season, starting three. Two of those starts came at free safety when Goldson was out with an ankle injury and he’s totaled 20 tackles and one pass defense for the season.

Wright said Thursday that he’s fully aware of how big this new opportunity is, but he’s just trying to keep his preparation consistent with previous weeks.

“My mentality is still the same,” Wright said. “I’ve got to stay hungry and go out here and just work. I can’t let my guard down just because this opportunity did come. It can leave, too, so I just come out here and stay focused, stay humble and just keep working.

“It’s game week so I can’t just sit around and be happy just because this opportunity did open. I’m still hungry and I’m still going to go out and focus and just keep working.”

Wright’s no stranger to extensive playing time or the Tampa 2 defense being employed by head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. The former Florida Gator started 42 games during his first four NFL seasons in Chicago before coming to Tampa Bay this offseason. That stint with the Bears including three with Smith as his boss.

“I know this defensive scheme well,” Wright said. “I grew up in it, basically, since my first year in the league.”

Prior to Thursday’s open locker room, Frazier said Tampa Bay’s secondary has a chance to perform more consistently with Wright in the mix.

“The fact that he’s played in this system definitely helps him, without question,” Frazier said. “He’s a leader back there. He knows a lot of the verbal communication that you need from that position and he has some play-making ability as well. He’s a very good tackler, but his leadership is what kind of sticks out to me.”

Tampa Bay enters Sunday’s contest in Cleveland at 1-6 and ranked last in the NFL in total defense (409.9 yards per game) and points allowed (31.9) and 30th in passing defense (286.0). Improvement is needed on multiple fronts, but one area Smith hopes Wright can help impact is turnover generation. Wright spent four years in the same secondary with cornerback Charles Tillman, a master of the forced fumble.

“I think you could make the case that ‘Peanut’ Tillman is the best,” Smith said of the Bears cornerback and his 42 career forced fumbles. “I’m biased, but the numbers are what they are and we saw it on a daily basis. But they didn’t all just come right away; it took time. First there has to be a commitment. We as coaches keep preaching it.

“He hasn’t had as many opportunities, but Major is a part of the defense that hasn’t gotten as many takeaways as we need. But I’ve been around him, drafted him and seen him play good football. He’s a good football player. We feel confident that we won’t miss a beat. We have to get better play at all the positions, and hopefully Major will give us a boost.”

When Wright or Goldson need a breather, Smith said the staff’s confidence in McDougald to spell either is growing by the week.

“A part of the equation when you let a player go [is that] you have to like what’s here remaining,” Smith said. “McDougald is a part of that, being able to play both [free and strong safety]. As I said yesterday, he’s probably the best combination of a coverage guy with the tight ends and the matchups we have with that along with playing in the box and being a deep safety. He can do it all.”

Tampa Bay’s tweaked secondary will get tested this weekend by an erratic Cleveland offense and passing attack led by quarterback Brian Hoyer. The Browns rank 12th in total offense (355.4 yards per game), 18th in passing (235.4) and 16th in points scored (23.3).

The Bucs have forced 10 turnovers this season (four interceptions and six fumble recoveries), which is slightly below the league average of 11.03. If they’re going to see an uptick in their takeaway numbers Sunday, they’ll have to do so against a team that hasn’t played loose with the football through seven games. Hoyer’s only had two of his 218 pass attempts picked off and Browns ball carriers have coughed up three fumbles that went the other way.

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About the Author: Eric Horchy

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fredster
fredster
6 years ago

How bad a team are you when you expect better play from your secondary because you are starting back ups after letting go your 7th overall pick at SS? Lol. It can’t get worse I guess.

scubog
scubog
6 years ago

If Wright is better, why wasn’t he starting? But we can be the last ranked defense with Sabby Piscitelli patrolling.

richbucsfan
richbucsfan
6 years ago

One thing I’m sure of is this “tweaked” Bucs defense will be just what “an erratic Cleveland offense” needs to get things together. The Bucs seem to be a cure all for struggling opposing offenses.

Noctus
Noctus
6 years ago

I’m kind of insulted that they would think I’m dumb enough to buy this crap. As scubog said, if they honestly thought Wright was better, he would be playing. Just tell us the truth, Lovie: You know the season is over and are doing everything you can to try to get picks for the draft. Stop with this nonsense. We’re smarter than that. I hope Horchy didn’t by this either.

macabee
macabee
6 years ago

You guys are breathing exhaust fumes if you think Lovie is going to say what we know to be the truth and have his remaining players quit on him for the remainder of the season. Call it reverse psychology or if you want perverse psychology. Bottom line, you are never going to hear the words “This season is shot, we’re playing for next year”!

pinkstob
pinkstob
Reply to  macabee
6 years ago

I agree Mac.

pinkstob
pinkstob
6 years ago

I totally disagree with the way the cards were reshuffled with the trading of Barron. K. Tandy got 3 INT’s last year but is not a good tackler so he should be starting at FS. Goldson or McDougald should be starting at SS. I actually think McDougald would perform better than Goldson based on what McDougald did at training camp, but Goldson is making the big bucks. Either way, the real plan must really be like Macabee said. We’re “Malfunctioning for Mariota” at this point.

cremdonado
cremdonado
6 years ago

If all this BS is to try and land Mariota,then our FUTURE is already in more trouble than we think…Lovie should not be the guy to pick a future franchise QB- he brought McClown to us! Lovie needs to go at the end of the season- keeping him will damage this franchise deep into the future- esp. If we go QB in the first round… If Mariota is the projected target,I’m even more worried…Oregon QBs look great in college but where are they in the NFL? And if we go for Winston- we have a potential head case for a… Read more »

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

I don’t see any of these Safety’s on the team next year. We need to draft a Safety, CB, LB, DE, Center, RG, LT, QB. Oh I forgot to say all those picks should be in the early rounds.

76Buc
76Buc
6 years ago

All I hear on all the sites is we ned to draft a QB in the early first round. Great that means 2 or 3 more years of losing while (if) he develops.Three words state my opinion: Vinnie T; Clint Dilfer; Josh Freeman. This is a toxic organization and it cannot pick QBs in rd 1. Don’t waste the pick on a QB in rd 1.

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