The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a new coach, a new GM, and have spread a new sense of optimism with a lot of fans, who believe the team is better now than it was under Greg Schiano. And while a change in coaching will certainly help the Bucs take a step forward in the upcoming season, is the roster in better shape than it was under Schiano, Mark Dominik and company?
This series will take a position-by-position look at the roster in Tampa Bay, and consider if the Bucs are better off now than they were just under a year ago at this time. (For consistency purposes, I have used the OurLads 2013 depth chart from June 1st, 2013 as a basis for last year's roster.)
Today we take a look at the cornerback position.
Then Versus Now
Last summer, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' cornerback depth chart looked like this:
Darrelle Revis represented such a huge upgrade at the corner position that he totally changed the outlook for the position heading into last season. His presence more than replaced what was lost by trading away Aqib Talib, There were still question marks behind him on the depth chart, but he was good enough to ease those fears with how well he was expected to play.
This summer, the depth chart looks more like this:
Alterraun Verner is good, but he's not Darrelle Revis good. That's the biggest, and most obvious change heading into next season at the cornerback position. The Buccaneers made the money-conscious decision to move on from Darrelle Revis, and replace him with the more versatile Verner.
Johnthan Banks returns, and figures to be the other starter in Tampa. Watching his college tape last year, he reminded me in some ways of Ronde Barber (with an obvious size difference) so it will be interesting to see if the Lovie Smith defense can get more out of Banks.
The slot corner position will come down to Jenkins, Johnson, Moore and Gorrer, all of whom have a reasonable shot of being the "starter" at the position for Week 1.
The biggest talking point when comparing the cornerback depth chart from last year to the depth chart this year is the loss of Darrelle Revis. The Bucs gave away the best corner in the NFL for nothing, and replaced him with a player who isn't as good.
In doing so, they made a statement about their team-building intentions. They proved that they don't believe cornerback is a position worthy of overspending for an elite player. Talk about Revis "not fitting the system" is purely nonsense, as Revis can play in any scheme and succeed. The prime example of that is last season, when he was the best corner in the NFL despite playing in Greg Schiano's broken defense.
So the outlook at this position changed drastically, moving away from having the best player in the world at corner to having a young nucleus of two players that seem to fit the incoming schemes nicely, and at a better price. Darrelle Revis, for as good as he is, won't be around forever, as he's slowly creeping up on the age at which cornerbacks fall off the map.
Alterraun Verner, on the other hand, is on the right side of his athletic prime, and should only get better with the right coaching. So from a purely future-focused perspective, the Bucs have "improved" by getting a better value with more left in the tank.
And what about the rest of the depth chart? Well, Myron Lewis is gone, and there are multiple viable veterans competing for backup positions. That's a pretty obvious upgrade.
It's impossible for me to say that the Buccaneers are better at corner now than they were at this time last year. You can't give away the best player at the position and replace him with one player, who isn't as talented, and be better. The long-term outlook improved, but the cornerback depth chart is simply not as talented as it was heading into last season.