ATB 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers Player Profile: Jordan Whitehead
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were searching for a certain type of player in the Draft and during Free Agency. The types of players GM Jason Licht was looking for were nasty physical players who would take the 2017 Tampa Bay Buccaneers soft approach, to the new 2018 Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ out right physical and nasty new nature.
Let’s welcome in the 2018 4th round draft pick Jordan Whitehead to YOUR Tampa Bay Buccaneers! The theme of Jason Licht’s style this year seemed to be drafting players with nastiness and physicality. After doing a little research on the former Pittsburgh Panther’s starting strong safety, I would say he definitely fits the mold.
Okay, okay. I know the next question you’re gonna ask is what does Whitehead do well? Why should we be excited about his upside?
Whitehead is a very athletic football player, first and foremost. He is also very athletic in the sense that Pittsburgh, from time to time, would use him on the offensive side of the ball as a running back in sub packages and as a red zone threat. I would definitely label him as a dual-threat defender as evident by his three touchdowns as a running back and never averaging less than 6.5 yards per carry throughout his three year college career.
There is no doubt that if he manages to get his hands on a turnover, he’s looking to score. Being such a dynamic athlete will only help him at the next level, where everyone is bigger, faster, and stronger.
Jordan Whitehead tackling varies from good to very good on open field tackling. He is definitely not afraid to meet any skill position in a hole and lay the lumber. Many times, while watching his tape, Whitehead makes score-saving tackles on broken plays by the defense. His athleticism helps his overall range as a safety. A safety can be many things, but being the last line of defense is at the top of that list.
Not only does Whitehead tackle well in the open field, he performs well at seeking out the ball carrier. Now when you hear that, I’m sure you have memories of Deshon Goldson and his irrelevant years in Tampa. The league made Goldson and any other violent head-hunting safety’s play style obsolete. Whitehead isn’t that. Instead, Whitehead diagnoses what he sees and then attacks with full steam. This allows him to be sure of his direction instead of aimlessly using force.
I believe that there are two traits of Whitehead’s game that will give him a solid foundation for next year. However, those traits are not perfect and can also cause him a little trouble from time to time.
Earlier we talked about how well Whitehead tackles and honestly it’s one of his best traits. However, he does occasionally take bad angles to the ball carrier causing him to miss tackles. This is a rare occurrence, but it is worth mentioning as part of his evaluation.
The more irritating part of his game is also part of what makes him a pretty good player. At times during that initial reading and reacting to a play, Whitehead is a step slow in his processing and it causes him to be late on his cues. This in turn causes him to be blocked during a run play and slow to react to a pass play. If he can make this an immediate focus during the off season, he could be in great shape come this fall.
Finally, what I noticed was lacking in the tape that I studied was coverage opportunities. They were there, but very few and far between. He can definitely separate the ball carrier from the ball once it gets there, but throughout Whitehead’s three year career. he only had twelve passes defended.
This isn’t to say Whitehead can’t cover well, but I can’t disqualify the guy without knowing exactly what his role was as the strong safety in Pittsburgh’s defense. He’s a bit of a raw prospect with good to great upside. Definitely not a bad choice for a 4th round prospect.
Whitehead is making this team. Most of the Buccaneers draft choices from the first four rounds do. The aspects of Whitehead’s game are intriguing and if developed well, could turn him into a potential steal just as Kwon Alexander (also being a 4th rounder) was, or he could underwhelm and be gone within a few years.
Either way, should be fun to watch.
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