The Buccaneers‘ secondary has seen their fair share of struggles. Over the past five seasons, the team has failed to rank in the top 20 in passing yards allowed. In fact, the highest they’ve been ranked is 16th in 2015.
Much like the rest of the defense, the secondary has been a focal point this offseason. The Buccaneers’ brass went out and used two second-round picks and a fourth on their secondary. How do these newbies fit into an already young secondary?
Cornerbacks: Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves III, Ryan Smith, Carlton Davis, MJ Stewart, De’Vante Harris
Along with the rest of the NFL, the Buccaneers had to cut their roster down to 53 guys. The corners that survived aren’t a surprise.
Brent Grimes and Vernon Hargreaves III return as the starters on the outside but expect defensive coordinator Mike Smith to mix things up throughout the year. Rookies Carlton Davis and MJ Stewart should see plenty of playing time.
Davis had been taking some snaps on the outside and could eventually bump Hargreaves to the nickel/slot corner spot. This is due to Davis’ physical style of play but also Hargreaves performing admirably in the slot during the preseason.
Vernon Hargreaves is happy to take on the role of hype man and leader of the secondary. He’s loud, encouraging, and noticeable in the best way.#GoBucshttps://t.co/kFug9pJLSM
— Tampa Bay Buccaneers (@Buccaneers) August 26, 2018
M.J Stewart could also find playing time at both slot and on the outside if anything happens to Grimes. Ryan Smith and De’Vante Harris, on the other hand, are seen strictly as depth pieces. Smith started 10 games last season but his level of play didn’t instill much confidence. Harris was picked up on waivers from the Saints early in training camp. He hasn’t seen much playing time over his two-year career but Bucs’ coaches obviously saw something of value to keep him around.
Safeties: Chris Conte, Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Isaiah Johnson
One of the biggest shocks of the roster cuts was when Isaiah Johnson got the final safety spot. Veteran Keith Tandy was cut after being with the Buccaneers since 2012. But coach Dirk Koetter decided to go younger and saw a great find in Johnson.
“Isaiah is the perfect example of a guy who came in here, didn’t say a word, just got better, got better, got better, got better. Scout team, special teams – improved as a safety and now here he is. He’s on the 53. That’s a good example to everyone, and everybody’s got a different journey.”
Johnson lead the team in tackles during the preseason with 15 total. He spent a lot of time on special teams and should be a major contributor in that area more than anywhere else.
The rest of the safety group is as expected. Chris Conte and Justin Evans return as starters, much to the chagrin of Buccaneers fans. Jordan Whitehead could eventually take over for Conte but the rookie will have to sit back and learn to start the year.
I’m actually okay with this depth. I think Jordan Whitehead slowly wins the starting job over conte. But either way Isaiah Johnson showed to be a really good backup and we all seen what Whitehead can do and Chris conte has made a lot of plays for us believe it or not
— Jared Hammond (@JaredHammond_54) September 1, 2018
While they’re far from perfect, this Bucs’ secondary has a ton of young talent that has the potential to be one of the NFL’s best for years to come.
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