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Juran Bolden vs. Alan Zemaitis
Tampa Bay appears to be set at the cornerback position. Starters Ronde Barber and Brian Kelly return for another season, and Bolden was re-signed to a long-term deal by the Bucs earlier in the offseason.
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound Bolden helped to solidify Tampa Bay’s nickel corner job by recording 42 tackles, two interceptions and nine passes defensed.
The Bucs were pleased with Bolden’s play last year. However, while he’s reliable in the short-to-intermediate part of the field, Bolden can become a liability in the deep part of the secondary since his large frame makes it difficult for him to adjust to deep passes. Of course, Bolden’s big frame also often times helps him make up for this particular weakness.
With Barber, Kelly and Bolden each over the age of 30, the Bucs are looking for a cornerback of the future, and they believe they found one in Zemaitis, whom they drafted in the fourth round last April.
Zemaitis (6-1, 194) is a rookie and will be competing against the likes of Torrie Cox, Blue Adams, James Patrick and Justin Phinisee in training camp and preseason, but his learning curve should be accelerated by the fact that he played in a similar Tampa 2-type defense at Penn State.
That experience in the Tampa 2 defense, along with his overall athleticism and talent (draws some comparisons to Barber), should give Zemaitis the edge over those competitors.
Bolden likely will use his veteran experience and savvy to win the nickel corner job again this year, but the Bucs feel Zemaitis could be ready to replace him or even move into the starting lineup should Barber leave via free agency as soon as the 2007 season.
Advantage: Juran Bolden
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