A lot of people in the Tampa Bay market think Chris Conte was only holding onto his job due to being a veteran. He’s a guy who knows this league and knows how to handle himself on and off the field. There was no one really pushing Conte for playing time. Until now, that is….
Due to an injury sustained in the Week 12 game against Seattle, Conte was forced off the field and Keith Tandy stepped in and stepped up. Tandy has played in 13 games this season so far while starting the last two in place of Conte. While Conte has more tackles and assists than Tandy so far this season, that’s mostly due to Conte starting the first 11 games. Tandy has respectable stats for a guy who has started only two of 13 games.
The big x-factor to me has been the two weeks that Tandy has started. Earlier this season, Conte was seen as a defensive liability at times. During the last two games, Tandy has shown flashes of his ability to start in the NFL. In the final moments of both of their last two games, against San Diego and New Orleans, Tandy has been the hero each time. In both of those games, Tandy has come up with a big interception to seal big wins for the Buccaneers.
Now sure, they both have two interceptions on the season, but Tandy’s have nearly single-handedly secured them the last two games. As I said earlier, the starting job was Conte’s at the beginning of the season, but I think Tandy has shown enough to warrant a second look. Conte is due back from injury sooner rather than later. Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter need to take a long look at what’s better for this defense going forward.
I personally like Conte’s swagger on the field, but one would be amiss to notice the difference Tandy has made to the defense’s resurgence the past few weeks. So when the times comes, I don’t know if you can give Conte back his starting job. Many NFL players have lost starting jobs due to injuries, this one would be no different if it were to happen. If Tampa does give back the starting job to Conte, it will be a huge step back for a defense that has truly come alive with Tandy as their starting strong safety.
Keith Tandy has been named the Castrol Edge Clutch Performer of the Week for his week 14 performance against the New Orleans Saints.
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