The Big Answer: Probably Not
May 19, 2010 at 10:15am by Scott • 3 Comments »
In a recent article, Pat Yasinskas tackles the question of whether or not Sabby Piscitelli can actually play. Which is funny because that’s more than Sabby has tackled in a year.
If you watched Piscitelli last season, it was ugly. He had all sorts of problems in coverage and his tackling was bad. That’s a pretty brutal combination for a strong safety.
And then he spends the rest of the article defending Sabby. “He did everything wrong, but here’s why he’s not bad.” Go ahead, Pat. Enlighten us.
In the eyes of the fans, Piscitelli quickly went from being the next John Lynch to the symbol of all that was wrong with Tampa Bay’s defense. He certainly deserved some criticism, but I’m not ready to write this guy off just yet.
The next writer to use the expression “The next [insert good Buccaneer here]” deserves to be dipped in honey and laid on a hill of siafu ants. It’s done. Maybe certain new players will have similar traits to those of old players, but that doesn’t make them worthy of perpetuating a legacy. Only Lynch was Lynch.
Strong safety is a position like right field in Little League or softball. When you’ve got a good defense, it’s not all that important. Fact is, the Bucs had a horrible defense last year and Piscitelli went from being hidden to being exploited badly.
Raheem Morris is a secondary coach by trade and I bet he would have something to say about the strong safety position being less important under any circumstances, good defense or bad. But let’s put that aside for a second and say it’s true. What difference does it make? “As long as Sabby doesn’t have to do anything, he’s great!” Is that what Pat is saying? Plays came his way and he didn’t make them. The fact that it was more often than usual only means that the fans were more aware of it. He’s not a better player because he missed more plays.
Maybe — and I’m just saying maybe — all the moves on defense will make the Bucs better and give Piscitelli a chance. In theory, their pass rush should be better and the cornerback tandem of Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib should keep the pressure off the safeties.
That may work for linebackers. Better line performance forces the play into an area that the runner doesn’t want to go and the linebacker has a better chance to make the tackle. But safeties are kind of out there on an island. “Last line of defense” and all that. When the play comes to them, it’s pretty much a one-on-one situation. Maybe he’ll get fewer plays coming his way because the line and linebackers will tackle better, but they’re not going to help him actually perform his job better. They can only give him less work.
Maybe the improvements to Tampa Bay’s defense will prevent Piscitelli from having to do too much deep coverage and that would be a big plus.
But his problem is in both coverage and tackling. You just said it above.
But if Piscitelli really is going to be the next Lynch, he has to start hitting like Lynch. Or, at very least, he has to make the tackles that are in front of him.
So if he wants to be a better safety, he needs to do the things that a safety does better. Give this man a whistle, I think he has a future in coaching.
If Yasinskas wants to keep invoking Lynch to make his point, he should remind everyone that Lynch himself was not that good for the first couple years of his career. He was mostly a special teams guy and Tony Dungy even demoted him when he first arrived. Todd Scott was the starting strong safety in 1996, but got hurt in week two and put on injured reserve. Lynch took over after that and never gave the spot up again. But remember some of those early games against the Lions where Barry Sanders completely owned Lynch? It all goes back to that argument that most young players need time to develop. The question is, how long to do want to wait for that development? Piscitelli has started 20 games now. What’s the magic number of games? How many missed tackles is too many?
The higher a player is selected, the sooner you would expect them to be good. Sabby was a second-round pick and has two injury-free seasons under his belt. It’s time. Sean Jones is a good player and I honestly just want the best guy in the spot. If the light comes on for Sabby and he wins the camp competition, fine. If not, put Jones in there and let Sabby keep playing special teams and the third safety. I’m not emotionally attached to him. At least not any more. YOU BROKE MY HEART WITH YOUR SHITTY PLAYING!