Now that the 2019 NFL Draft is over, let’s look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new secondary, which they spent nearly half their picks drafting.
The current cornerbacks under contract include Carlton Davis, Vernon Hargreaves, De’Vante Harris, David Rivers, Ryan Smith, and M.J. Stewart. The 2019 rookies that join them are second round pick, Sean Murphy-Bunting and third round pick, Jamel Dean. Most of the corners are drafted by the team including Hargreaves (2016, 1st round), Ryan Smith (2016, 4th round), M.J. Stewart (2018, 2nd round), and Carlton Davis (2018, 2nd round). Harris was originally signed by the New Orleans Saints and Rivers was signed by the Green Bay Packers as undrafted free agents in 2017. None have made any Pro-Bowls and have a combined two interceptions among them. Considering for the most part, they’re been among the league’s worst in pass defense, there’s no surprise.
The field is wide open with defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ aggressive 3-4 scheme looking to apply stringent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, hoping to cause enough disruptions with more deflections and errant throws for interceptions. Competition will be strong and we’ll see if the young core can do for Bowles what they couldn’t do for Mike Smith and Mark Duffner.
Third round pick safety Mike Edwards is joining a thin safety pool that includes Kentrell Brice, Isaiah Johnson, Justin Evans and Jordan Whitehead. Whitehead was picked in the 4th round in the 2018 NFL draft and has yet caused a turnover, but has 76 tackles. Johnson joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2016 with one interception, one defensive touchdown, one fumble recovery and 50 tackles to his name. Brice has the most experience as an undrafted free agent first signing with the Packers in 2016 before leaving for the Bucs. He’s had one sack, one interception, six pass deflections and 98 tackles. The addition of Edwards should help with the run and he can extend himself to deflect passes. Evans contributed a lone interception, two passes defended, a fumble recovery for TD and 59 tackles, while Whitehead contributed four passes defended and 76 tackles.
As a heavy emphasis on man coverage, the only advantage the Bucs secondary will have is youth, but it’s laden with inexperience. The key to the unit’s execution is to crowd the routes and smother receivers so the QB doesn’t have clear vision to the receiver.
Does the Bucs secondary stand a chance against opposing NFL offenses with their grueling schedule?