Chris Conte, much like the secondary of the Buccaneers as a whole, has gotten a bad rap in the early parts of the season. Conte is used to being criticized. The 6-year veteran seems to have to prove in every game, why he is in the league. Most fans believe that Conte stinks and that there is no way for him to redeem himself. Many are also of a belief that at the end of his one-year contract he, along with McDougald, and Tandy, will not be returning to Tampa in 2017.
During the first 8 games of the season, the secondary struggled mightily under Mike Smith’s new defensive scheme, and many also believe that the signs of this struggle can be seen while our Bucs were in the midst of the 3-games-in-11-days gauntlet. Throughout all of the issues that had plagued Tampa’s defense this season, Chris Conte was donned with the proverbial scapegoat/ villain tag. A tag he hadn’t really earned. Conte, tied to the whipping post, was blasted on social media as fans called for his job, and called him any and everything but a man who plays safety. Some had even said that the kick returner, Ryan Smith, should take over his position. That’s funny actually. We are damn lucky that the coaches are running the show, and not the fans, because if the fans were, oh boy! I could just see it now, the team uprooted and flipped around and positions filled by players to suit the needs of a young man whose only football knowledge is what they learned from playing Madden NFL from EA sports. Doug Martin fielding kicks? We would never punt again. Our offense would consist mainly of HB screens and a plethora of Hail Marys on first and 4th down.
Ok back to Conte. The Bucs defense is beginning to click now and is firing on all cylinders, and among those firing is Chris Conte. We can argue all day about how he is good or how he is bad, but the simple fact remains is he has turned into a game changer. Not only is he one of the most improved in the secondary, he is second on the team in tackles. He has risen from the ashes to come up huge in the last two games, and I know what people are going to say, “It’s only two games.” Well, those people haven’t seen all of what Conte has done. All they see is the blown coverages and the dumb penalties, not the touchdown saving tackles or the pass defends, even if he is only recorded having 4. Conte even got the blame for the TD on that hail mary pass from Cutler, yet there were three other defenders there. But he never gets any praise for making the big stops. I suppose he has to make INTs to be worth a shit. “We hate Chris Conte,” they say. “Worst corner in the NFL,” they cry. That Pick six shut their damn mouths and that INT in the end zone against KC, kept it closed. As the days in the regular season tick away, Conte is proving that he can compete in this league and not just this year, but for years to come. Coincidentally so are our Buccaneers. Both are underrated and both are misunderstood.