When looking for the Bucs' leader in solo tackles, one usually scans the stat sheet for Lavonte David's name. But through five games, a different Buccaneer is leading the team in that stat category.
Safety Chris Conte, who arrived in Tampa this winter as a free agent, has 24 solo tackles, three more than David and the most of any Buccaneer player. He also has two forced fumbles, the most of any player, and has one of the team's three interceptions.
His efforts haven't gone unnoticed amongst the Bucs' coaching staff.
"As long as he's healthy, he's one of the better safeties in our league," Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier said. "He's a smart guy, he can match up on tight ends, backs out of the backfield. He can even go out and cover a third or fourth receiver at times. And he can tackle. Yes he has, he's played very, very well. We've just got to keep him on the field and he'll continue to get better."
Head Coach Lovie Smith had similar things to say about Conte, whom Smith coached during his time as Chicago's Head Coach.
"Seems to be around the ball," Smith said. I think he can play the run well. He's not afraid to come up and hit. He has range. He's not your typical in-the-box-only-type safety; he can guard wide receivers on the outside. I just think all the skill sets you're looking for at safety, for all we ask him to do, we feel like Chris can do that. What has hurt him in the past has been injuries. So if he can beat that injury bug a little bit, he'll just keep doing that."
As Frazier and Smith pointed out, it's important for Conte to stay healthy. He missed time during training camp with injuries and had been dealing with injuries before the bye week. As of Wednesday, though, Conte was off the injury report and a full participant in practice.
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Conte and the Bucs are set to take on a Washington offense that may be without one of their most dangerous weapons, DeSean Jackson. Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden said the chances of Jackson playing on Sunday were, "not very high."
Photos of Mike Evans during his performance in last year's 27-7 victory over the Redskins.