It’s no secret that the play of the front four, at times even the front seven of the Tampa-2 defense can make the secondary that much better. For Lovie Smith and his defense, it won’t be all about the scheme since it won’t be used all the time. The cornerbacks may be asked to do some different things than we are used to seeing from the Ronde Barber and Donnie Abraham days of the Tampa-2. And Smith has the confidence in the cornerbacks he has now on the roster to accomplish that goal.
Speaking to the media after OTA practice Tuesday, Smith talked about how he is enjoying watching the competition among the cornerbacks.
“I see good competition,” Smith said. “Alterraun Verner will be one of our guys of course, we didn’t bring him here to sit on the bench. There’s good competition, I would say there are six cornerbacks that I like on our football team right now and it will be interesting to see how they grow. We have guys like Rashaan Melvin, Deveron Carr, guys with size and speed that we see daily improvement from. Again I just can’t wait to keep going through the process to get to the preseason games to see exactly how they’ll be.”
Another cornerback that has received high praise is 2013 rookie Johnthan Banks. The second-year cornerback out of Mississippi State has faced some challenges during practices but has taken coaching very well.
Coach Smith talked about Banks’ value to the team and the defensive system.
“Banks is a great fit for our scheme,” Smith said. “I was talking with Johnthan a little bit today. We’re not the only wide receiving group in the division that’s gotten taller, there are others that have done the same thing. We’re going to need a couple of six feet corners now, at least six [feet]-plus corners, of course that’s Johnthan and I like what he did last year as a young player playing. Coachable guy, who has talent, I’m excited about coaching him.”
Tampa Bay was tied for third in the NFL for team interceptions last season with 21. But the team leader in interceptions was linebacker Lavonte David. Banks lead last year’s group of corners with three while the rest of them combined for three total — and the “rest” of the cornerbacks that combined for those three were Darrelle Revis (2) and Leonard Johnson (1).
The Buccaneers face challenges year in and year out in the NFC South with the receivers in the division so Smith’s focus on the cornerbacks is not shocking. The way they have practiced this offseason is not nearly as close to game-ready as can be. However, Smith’s words on the group is certainly encouraging and a step in the right direction.
Follow Gil on Twitter: @GilArciaTBC
Now featuring TheBayCave.com message boards! Click here and become a cave dweller!