The Buccaneers finished up their final OTA practice and with that walked away with an idea of where the corners will sit at on the depth chart, but truthfully, nothing is set in stone, says Dirk Koetter. “Nothing is decided during OTAs. We can all have our opinions on how guys look, but we’re going to be playing real football when we get back and that’s going to be when guys will really have a chance to prove it.”
Although Koetter is not making any decisions, during May and June, as to where these guys will sit on the depth chart, pre-camp practices give the guys the chance to make their presence felt and catch the eye of the coaches. One who has quickly caught the eye of Koetter is Vernon Hargreaves III. “He’s got great quickness, tremendous explosiveness, he’s smart, competitive, he’s playing two spots, he’s playing corner and nickel. Exactly what we thought when we drafted him. When you’re a first-round draft pick you’re going to play. You’re going to play most of the time.
Koetter knows that they have improved the depth at the corner position and cites that even though Grimes has been out a few days, the competition at the corner spot had been enlightening. “We know we have improved our depth at corner. Brent Grimes was down the last few days. We have great competition. We’re trying to get competition at every position. Vernon Hargreaves and Alterraun Verner have both stood out as far as the last few days, as far as making plays.”
Verner, who lost his starting position last season, maintains a positive attitude going into 2016, and could make quite the impact given his second chance with a new defensive scheme. Many have called him a long standing free agent bust, I as well said he didn’t live up to expectations at all, but this season could be a game changer for the veteran. No one knows this more than Verner himself. “Sometimes you have something happen and you fall down like others have, including myself, so it’s just a professional game. You’re up and you’re down, but just like at corner you have to have a short memory and you can’t dwell on the past and just move forward. You can’t sit around and complain about it. You have to be able to make the best of that situation and you know that’s all it was. I love playing this game.”
Banks was one who also fell in the depth chart, but in his first two seasons as a Buccaneer, he started 3o games, and in those 30 games, he had 16 passes defended and 7 interceptions. He proudly played better than any Buccaneers secondary member those two seasons. If Hargreaves starts out as the outside corner, but then moves to nickel, Banks and Verner would be favorable to play as a third corner. Dirk Koetter is well aware of the players competitiveness and that cornerback competition is going to be tough, as all the players vying for that spot are highly motivated. Banks is in his final year of his rookie contract, which will give Banks the chance to show what he is capable of doing.“This is a competition, it’s a big year for a lot of guys. We can say that about 90 guys out here and 53 spots. Banks is competing; that’s what he’s doing and he’s made some plays. He made a beautiful play two days ago down in the red zone. Mike Evans had him beat on a double move, he caught up and knocked the ball away, saved a touchdown.”
Johnthan Banks clearly sticks out at 6 ft 2 in, and that leads many to believe he has the edge on the littler guys, especially with the towering WR’s we face in our division, however, this is simply not true. Dirk Koetter is not going to be swayed by the size of cornerback, he will be swayed by talent and consistency. “There’s plenty of research both ways about the size in corners. There are some misnomers out there, and then there are just as many corners that are 5’10’ that have been successful as corners that are 6’4′, so the guys are who they are. We’re happy with our guys and we’re going to keep working with them.”
Tampa should be considerably better in the secondary, this season, after the failed defensive display of last year. The level of talent and competitiveness at the corner position should make for some interesting lineups. Lineups that should wreak havoc on any opposing offense that crosses our path, in 2016.