Did the Bucs’ defense get enough help?

by Gary Shelton on April 27, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Saturday, 3 a.m.

Questions. Right now, there are questions.

In the coming years, perhaps some of them will graduate to answers. Perhaps some of them will demonstrate an improved team that might yet turn the corner.

But for now, there are questions.

For instance, is this second day defensive back haul better than last year's  defensive back haul?

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Is this year's cornerback from Auburn better than last year's cornerback from Auburn?

Was it worth it to trade back 24 slots -- nearly an entire round -- to pick up an extra late-third round pick?

Was Sean Bunting, the team's second-round pick, really better than the more reknown Greedy Williams?

The Bucs brought in four defensive players. But are they enough to make a difference in this team's fortunes?

On Friday, the Bucs picked Central Michigan's Bunting, then moved backward and picked up Auburn's Jamel Dean and Kentucky's Mike Edwards. It creates what would seem to be a logjam of young defensive backs. Last year, the Bucs drafted M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and Jerome Whitehead. The year before, they drafted safety Justin Evans.

The young defensive backs didn't stop the Bucs from being one of the worst secondaries in the league, however. allowing the league's highest completion percentage and its highest opposing quarterback rating. Since 2016, the Bucs and general manager Jason Licht have drafted nine defensive backs.

“You’re just always trying to get better and it’s not really an indictment on the guys that are here," Licht said. "It’s a long season and you guys have seen first hand throughout the years – the last couple years - when injuries start stacking up and our depth wasn’t where we would like it to be. We needed to add and infuse some talent in the secondary. (I) wasn’t real happy with the play of the secondary last year as whole just because of the lack of depth - and just the way the board fell. At this point, we still felt like we had guys who could eventually move into starting roles or have the talent to do it and competition is a beautiful thing in this league.”

Licht like Friday's haul.

"With Bunting, what we liked about him – first of all, superb kid, locker room guy, teammate," Licht said. "We compared our meetings with him with that of Devin (White) in terms of just his infectious personality and I think he’s got a lot of leadership qualities in him, but he can play outside, he can play inside. He’s a tough guy, he’s very smart, so he’ll get his opportunities at all those places. Jamel is a big guy. Obviously, I know the talk is how he blew it up at the Combine, ran very fast, but he plays a physical game. He’s a really good press guy, he’s a really good tackler and he’s a really sharp kid too as well. Then with Mike, Mike is a playmaker from the safety position. Now, he’s moved around. He’s played a little bit in the nickel position. We see him more as a safety for us. He, as well, has good speed, tough guy and just finds a way to get his hands on balls or intercept balls. Any Kentucky guy who we’ve talked to throughout this process, you ask, ‘Who do you want to bring with you?’ ‘It’s Mike Edwards. It’s simple.’”

Said Edwards: “I feel like I’m a ball guy. I love getting to the ball. I love taking away the ball, so that’s what I harp on, taking it away, getting turnovers – if it’s fumbles or interceptions, whatever it may be, I feel like that’s what I do. I’m a playmaker, so I can definitely help the team out next year as far as taking the ball away, getting interceptions, getting forced fumbles, whatever it may be. I feel like I’m definitely a playmaker on the back end.”

Bunting sounded similar.

“I would say my best attribute is being able to just take the ball out of the air," Bunting said. "I’m a ball hawk. I consider myself a receiving defensive back, so that’s just something I take pride in being able to take the ball away and get it back to the offense and also getting my hands on it, getting physical. A lot of corners don’t get physical at the line of scrimmage. A lot of them kind of like to open up and run and that’s the part of my game that I like to elevate more and more each year and that’s going to make me elevate my game in every way possible.”

Will it be enough? On the cornerback ratings of Walterfootball.com, Bunting was rated 35th.

“As a corner — and especially in the NFL - you have to have a short memory," Bunting said. "You can’t linger on plays that you messed up on before because then it’s going to cause you to have sadness or being down on yourself the rest of the game and they’re going to keep targeting you and you’re going to get frustrated. So, the way you play guys like that (Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones) is just kind of having a short memory and knowing that they’re one of the best of the best. In the NFL, everyone is good. Everyone was the best at their college, everyone was the best at where they were and now you just have to elevate your game in a positive way. Elevate your game how you need to. So yeah, if Julio gets a pass caught on me, you just have to have a short memory and being able to bounce back and having a strong mentality and being able to go back up to the line and say, ‘Ok, that’s not happening again,’ and you line back up, strap back up and do what you have to do.”

Dean looked forward to joining ex-Auburn teammate Davis.

"Me and Carlton, we used to work with each other after practice all the time," Deam said. "We used to do recovery together, we did extra work together and then me and him being on the same team again, it really means a lot to me.”

White flew to Tampa Friday for a press conference.

“As I sit here for the first time, I would like the fans to know that you’re getting a great guy and you’re going to get an even greater guy on the field," White said. "Everybody has seen my potential at the college level, but I feel like I’m an unfinished prospect. I feel like my game is at a high level. But with the coaching staff here, the defensive coaching staff – Coach (Mike) Caldwell, Coach Todd (Bowles) – I feel like my game can go to a whole new level. So what they’ve seen in college, tell them don’t expect (that) — expect even more. And that’s just knowing what type of coaches I’m going to be around. I know they’re going to want the best from me and they’re going to require the best from me and I’m going to give them the best out of me.”



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