One year after signing a four-year, $25.5 million contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Alterraun Verner may have already lost his starting job. Verner was seen working with the backups today, according to the Tampa Bay Times' Greg Auman, with long-time Lovie Smith veteran Tim Jennings getting the nod with the starting group ahead of him. This comes a week after Verner played just 46% of the snaps to Jennings' 68%.
Rick Stroud noted yesterday that Verner was working with the slot cornerbacks, where he got a decent amount of playing time in his time with the Tennessee Titans. He could supplant the indistinct Sterling Moore there, though Moore had more playing time than Verner last week too.
The Bucs are still groping around in the secondary. No player played 100% of the snaps in either games, and the only one to exceed 80% of the snaps in both snaps was safety Bradley McDougald. The Bucs have shown different packages in different situations, with Tim Jennings popping up to track Brandin Cooks last week, Keith Tandy appearing at safety in the red zone, and Chris Conte and D.J. Swearinger seemingly platooning next to McDougald.
The fact that Verner's been demoted this quickly is concerning, though. He didn't stand out to me, positively or negatively, over the past two games after a fairly nondescript first year under Lovie Smith. Verner was signed as the ideal Tampa 2 cornerback: quick out of a break, good against the run and terrific ball skills -- but he hasn't been able to live up to his promise so far, despite flashing the same athletic talent he showed in Tennessee. Meanwhile, Jennings has looked surprisingly good given the fact that he seemed to be heavily declining in Chicago the past few years, so I could understand this move -- the familiarity with Lovie Smith's defense won't be hurting him, either.
There's a lot of depth and competition in the secondary, as the Bucs have a series of players who at least the coaching staff views as of roughly similar quality and Verner is the first victim of that depth. Whether that's good or bad depends on how good you think the team's secondary really is.