|Written by Michael|
Bet on the NFL E.J. Biggers embraces the challenge of filling a hole in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers injury-depleted secondary.
The second-year cornerback already felt like a marked man before Aquib talib was lost for the season with a hip injury, so Biggers definitely anticipates opposing quarterbacks trying to exploit him now as the replacement for the Bucs' best defender. Talib is tied for second in the NFL with six interceptions. Tampa Bay's other starting cornerback in Ronde Barber, a 14-year veteran who's the only player in league history with at least 40 interceptions and 25 sacks.
Biggers, who has been used primarily as a fifth defensive back in obvious passing situations, will make his third pro start Sunday against the Washington Redskins. He expects Donovan McNabb to keep tabs of where he is on the field, particularly since Barber has had some of the most memorable performances of his career against the Redskins' quarterback.
Biggers also started in the Bucs' season opener against the Cleveland Browns while Talib served a one-game suspension for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy. The 23-year-old's other start came in Week 5 at Cincinnati, when the Bucs began the game against the pass-happy Bengals in nickel coverage.
Talib injured his hip during the first half of last Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Atlanta Falcons and Biggers played most of the final three quarters, finishing with seven tackles. He was beaten for a touchdown in his pro debut against the Browns, but he also had his first career interception.
The Bucs, off to a surprising 7-5 start after winning three games a year ago, has been able to remain in playoff contention despite a slew of injuries, particularly on the offensive line, where left tackle Donal Penn is the only starter remaining from the opening week of the season.
The secondary has been hit hard, too. Safety Tanard Jackson was suspended in September for a minimum of a year for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy.
His replacement, safety Cody Grimm, broke his left leg two weeks ago and is out for the season. Talib could be tougher to replace. He generally drew the assignment of covering the opposing team's top receiver. Bucs coach Raheem Morris blieves that Aqib's an elite corner who was playing at a Pro Bowl level and that he's confident Biggers is a capable fill-in, noting that several other inexperienced backups on the league's youngest roster have performed well when given an opportunity.
A seventh-round draft pick out of Western Michigan in 2009, Biggers said he has benefited from being able to watch Talib and Barber every day in practice, as well as receive feedback from them on the sideline during games. After Talib left last Sunday's game, he returned from the locker room and became an impromptu coach. Biggers welcomed the guidance and expects to continue receiving assistance from the third-year pro who was a first-round draft pick in 2008.