Crimson Tide in the NFL: Former safeties look to boost starting chances
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After putting our focus on the men between the trenches, today we move toward former Crimson Tide ball hawks. Defensive backs have been the issue of many past Alabama defenses but these three were standouts of the secondary for the last few seasons. Mark Barron, Nick Perry and Vinnie Sunseri were all on the team in 2011 that won a national championship and has gotten credit for being on of the best secondaries Alabama has ever had. During today’s installment of our 2015 Bama in the Pros Preview, we focus on those three former stars.
Mark Barron, St. Louis Rams, Strong Safety
6’3″, 213 pounds
1 year, $2.36 million
Mark Barron was a part of two national championship teams in Tuscaloosa, lead by strong defenses. He has now found himself in a good situation at the Rams with another great defense. Barron started his career in 2012 for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and started in 37 games before being traded to St. Louis last year in a switch for draft picks. In the last nine games of the season, Barron recorded 23 tackles along with a career-high 3 sacks.
This season, Barron is listed as the third-string strong safety for the Rams behind Rodney McLeod and former Florida State standout Lemarcus Joyner. Barron will see plenty of playing time with the way the Rams rotate defensive formations. However, if Barron wants to become the starter in St. Louis, he will need to find improvement in his man coverage. Safeties don’t often find themselves in one-on-one situations but the Rams blitz a lot and Barron will need to figure it out to beat out the two other talented safeties.
Nick Perry, Baltimore Ravens, Free Safety
6’1″, 211 pounds
3 years, $1.58 million
Nick Perry is entering into his rookie season in the NFL as an undrafted free agent. He finished his senior season in Tuscaloosa with 80 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss and 2 interceptions. Perry signed with the Ravens in May and has pleased Baltimore’s coaching staff. The Ravens safety situation has become up in the air after presumed starter Matt Elam tore his biceps and is expected to miss the entire 2015 season. Perry is currently listed as the third team free safety but he sits just behind two other undrafted signees in Kendrick Lewis and Anthony Levine. Perry is ready to earn his roster spot and play wherever needed, specifically working to improve his special teams play.
Vinnie Sunseri, New Orleans Saints, Strong Safety
6’0″, 210 pounds
3 years, $1.93 million
Vinnie Sunseri was criticized by many people for entering the NFL with two years of college eligibility left. After being drafted in the 5th round by the Saints in 2014, those same critics were out for more after Sunseri saw limited playing time. Sunseri had seven tackles last season, six on kickoffs and one during garbage time, before suffering an arm injury in week 9 that put him on injured reserve for the rest of the year. Sunseri has shown improvement over the last few months and head coach Sean Payton has been impressed with his football instincts. Sunseri is listed as the Saints’ number two strong safety but sits behind Kenny Vaccaro, who will see almost every snap if he stays healthy. Sunseri recorded one tackle in the preseason opener against the Ravens last Thursday.
Caleb Turrentine is a contributor at Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow him on Twitter,@CalebTurrentine.