Banking on the Zone

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have hired Lovie Smith to coach the team.  Lovie's forte is defense, where he would utilize playing more zone than man coverage in the secondary.  Due to many reasons, Revis Island was released and the Bucs snatched up a young cornerback who would excel in Lovie's defensive scheme - at a much, much favorable price.  Alterraun Verner, or affectionately known to Tennessee Titans fans as ATV, would sign with the Bucs for four years worth about $25 million.  Ball skills are what Lovie endeared himself to ATV.

Here's a youtube video interview of Lovie saying great things about ATV:  link here.

We found a great corner in ATV for Lovie's scheme, but lost in this celebration is how Lovie's defensive scheme actually accentuates second year cornerback Johnthan Banks.  And since the draft is right around the corner, let us revisit some of the previews of young Mr. Banks going into the 2013 NFL draft.

DRAFT PHANTOM

Here's an assessment written by our own Draft Phantom from his 2013 NFL Draft Guide:

Originally played safety at Mississippi St. before converting to cornerback in his sophomore season.  Banks brought that physical nature to the cornerback position where he excelled in press man coverage and frequently face the SEC's top wide receivers.  He started 12 games as a sophomore recording 54 tackles, five pass deflections and two interception while still learning the position.  It came together as a junior when Banks recorded 71 tackles, four passes deflected and five interceptions.  His efforts this past year earned him the Jim Thorpe award as the nation's top cornerback when he recorded 63 tackles, seven passes deflected and four interceptions.

Banks is long and lanky he uses his former safety power to manifest a tough physical in your face style.  He is probably the best run supporting cornerback in this draft and always makes a sure tackle in space.  Like most taller and longer players Banks does have some difficulty I covering smaller fleet footed receivers he compensates some by laying well timed hits but it is always going to be a liability.  He also can occasionally be beat deep as he does not have natural burner ability.  He does have exceptional anticipation and can make a living alone on timing when he bats the ball away at the last minute.  Banks is at his best when playing press man and defending against the bread and butter intermediate routes that most NFL receivers use as their calling card.  He also has the length to compete for the jump balls and exceptional ball skills with it in the air so deep passes targeted against him will come with some risk.  As a pro Banks should be at his best when paired with a smaller quicker cornerback who can handle the opposing teams faster receiver while Banks draws a stalemate with the taller more powerful one.  Banks should also have an exceptionally long NFL career barring injury, he is the type of player who can start the majority of his career at cornerback then transition to free safety as his speed starts to fade.

NEPATRIOTSDRAFT.COM

Link: Banks Report

Johnthan Banks is an experienced ballhawking corner who has played against some of the best receivers in the country in the toughest conference. At 6'2″ Banks possesses well above average height for the position to go with long arms. He plays an aggressive style and tries to make a big play whenever he has the chance. He's a very sound and productive run support corner. Can wrap up and bring down ball carrier and blitz off the corner.

Banks will be a versatile corner at the next level he has experience playing many zone coverages, but has shown enough in press coverage to develop into a decent one if the proper technique is learned. Banks' quickness, suddenness and change of direction will all be picked apart throughout the draft process. He probably won't time as good as other corners, but like Casey Hayward last year Banks has a nose for the ball and finds a way to make a big play each game.

WALTERFOOTBALL.COM

Link:  Banks Report


4/24/13: Most projections have Banks going in the second round, and he could be an excellent value pick. Banks had a disappointing Combine that featured a slow 40 time. However with the demand for big corners like the Seahawks have used effectively, Banks benefits by comparison. He ran better at his pro day with a reported 40 time of 4.51 seconds. 

It wouldn't be surprising if Banks' numbers decline as a senior since teams will probably avoid throwing at him. He has a nice combination of size, speed and athleticism. Banks may fit best in a zone-based system in the NFL.

BLEACHERREPORT.COM

Link here: Banks Report

Future Role/Versatility: Banks' future in the NFL is likely in a zone-system where he can use his instincts and quickness to break on the ball. Because of his aggressiveness and physical play, he could potentially make the move to safety.

However, I'd love to see him in a tampa-2 attack like the Chicago Bears have run in recent years.

With a year under Mr. Banks' belt, we can expect great things from him, especially under Lovie's defensive scheme.   And with the signing of ATV, Banks can rest assured that the ball will be thrown his way often.  Let us hope so such that Banks can take advantage of his ball hawking skills.  Banks' stats last year are 55 combined tackles, 49 solo, 3 interceptions and five passes defended.  What do you think Banks could accomplish in 2014 under Lovie Smith?

Remember this interception: Banks picks off Palmer.

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