We’re going through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster, position by position, to see if the team improved compared to last year. Today: cornerback.
2015 roster: Johnthan Banks, Alterraun Verner, Mike Jenkins, Sterling Moore, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Joel Ross, C.J. Roberts
2016 roster: Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Alterraun Verner, Johnthan Banks, Jude Adjei-Barimah, Javien Elliott, Josh Robinson, Joel Ross
If there’s any position the Bucs addressed heavily this offseason, it’s cornerback, and with good reason. The Bucs allowed a ridiculous 70% of passes to be completed last season, though they were at least good at preventing big plays. Then again, that may have been more due to the safeties and defensive scheme. Regardless, every cornerback on the roster except for Sterling Moore and undrafted rookie Jude Adjei-Barimah were massively disappointing last year.
This offseason, the Bucs attacked cornerback like nobody’s business. They signed veteran Brent Grimes, their prime signing this offseason, used their first overall pick on Vernon Hargreaves, signed veteran Josh Robinson and brought in two new defensive backs. In essence, this is a complete overhaul, and it shows.
So far this offseason, Grimes and Verner have been starting, with Jude Adjei-Barimah in the slot and Vernon Hargreaves mostly as a second-team nickelback. Hargreaves should overtake Adjei-Barimah by training camp. The interesting thing here is that the Bucs have developed a real taste for smaller defensive backs, going against the NFL trend. With the exception of Johnthan Banks, every single cornerback is 5’11" or smaller, and Banks is now the fourth or even fifth cornerback on the roster.
The most important move may have been a change in coaching staff, though. For some reason, Lovie Smith and his team lost the magic defensive backs touch they had in Chicago, as nearly every cornerback regressed the past two years. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith and defensive backs coaches Jon Hoke and Brett Maxie should provide some improvement there.
The Bucs basically did everything they could to improve the team at this position. If that doesn’t work, things are really rotten in the state of Tampa’s secondary.