2019 proved to be an up-and-down year for the Tampa Bay secondary. Before releasing Vernon Hargreaves III in November, the team was right around the worst in the league in terms of passing yards allowed. However, after they released Hargreaves, the secondary really found their stride. The Buccaneers finished third in the league with 57 forced incompletions, many of which came thanks to Carlton Davis III and Jamel Dean.
It is hard to find a younger cornerback room in the NFL than the one in Tampa Bay. Carlton Davis III is the cornerback one entering only his third season. While cornerback two Sean Murphy-Bunting, cornerback three Jamel Dean, and cornerback four Mazzi Wilkins are all heading into year two. The lack of experience may seem worrying to some, but here is why I would not worry about the cornerbacks. The first reason is the problem with this secondary in 2019 was Vernon Hargreaves III. Since the day he left, the Buccaneers defense was top-10 in the league. Carlton Davis III showed flashes of being able to lock down top receivers in the league, just like he did in Week 16 when he heldDeAndre Hopkins to five receptions for 23 yards. Last season’s rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean showed big-play potential as well. They created turnovers that this secondary has been missing since the departure of Ronde Barber.
It seems no one knows anything about Justin Evans or if he will even play football again, so for now, I will leave him out of this conversation. However, Jordan Whitehead looks to be a significant find in the fourth round and a solid day one starter at strong safety. When healthy, Mike Edwards has been an impressive tackler, but still needs work in coverage. New second-round draft pick Antoine Winfield Jr. is who everyone should be excited about. During his time at Minnesota, Winfield Jr. was an absolute ballhawk. In 2019, he picked off seven passes, which is insanely impressive from the Safety position.
Speaking only in terms of the secondary, I put the 2020 ceiling at 8th-12th in the league. I would venture to say top-five if the front seven would have been included. Because of playing in the NFC South, this team will most definitely give up a fair share of yards and points. With that being said, Tom Brady will not turn the ball over nearly as much as Jameis Winston. Todd Bowles will get another offseason to coach up the young guys and develop them in his scheme, an excellent scheme at that. With the exception of Carl Nassib and Beau Allen, the entire front is back. These guys get to the quarterback as well as any team in the league and will force poor throws leading to success in the secondary.
We know Tampa Bay’s offense will be firing, the question is whether or not games will be shootouts. If the defense, particularly the secondary, can show flashes of dominance, the 2020 Buccaneers will be a scary, scary, good team.