We all know how it goes for most rookies in the NFL.
There are ups and downs. You’ll dip through peaks and valleys. It’s a rollercoaster ride.
All of the stupid cliches are true and there is no better example than Jamel Dean’s past two games.
The first of two third-round picks in the Bucs’ 2019 draft, Dean was put on a skewer and roasted over an open fire against the Seahawks. He gave up play after play, including the go-ahead 53-yard touchdown from Russell Wilson to DK Metcalf in the fourth quarter.
He also had some crucial penalties to go along with his coverage mistakes, including this big defensive holding penalty that gave the Seahawks an automatic first down in overtime:
Those are probably two of the most glaring examples from that game.
But something changed in-between the trip back home from Seattle and the Cardinals game.
Dean was very good when his name was called and showed a ton of improvement from the prior week. He finished the Cardinals’ game with two combined tackles, a tackle for loss, four pass break ups and interception.
All of them were big plays, but the biggest was the interception. Dean prevented the Cardinals from adding at least three points to their 27-23 lead. His interception gave the ball back to the Bucs’ offense, which they converted into the go-ahead touchdown to win the game.
It was an admirable performance that wasn’t wasted on a moral victory. Dean bounced back and came through when his team need him.
Jameis Winston put it best after the game. “Perseverance, right? When a lot of people [are] on your back and you get kind of hesitant, you end up making a play like that, giving your team a chance to win. So, kudos to him for just keeping his faith and going out there and playing great football.”
Linebacker Shaquil Barrett didn’t mince words when it came to the team’s confidence in Dean. They too know what Dean is capable of. “We have a hundred percent faith in him. coaches do, we do, there’s nobody on the team that we think goes out there not ready to get the job done.
So, we expect him to do that, even though it’s still great – he made some great plays, I’m not taking anything away from him. We expect everybody to be out there and be able to make plays.”
And for Dean, he knew that Seattle was just a stepping stone.
“After last week, I realized I had to prepare differently,” Dean told reporters after the game. The whole week, I’m watching extra film, I’m going up to Coach [Todd] Bowles’ office, just going over film and letting him teach me the game, because honestly, I didn’t want to have that feeling I did last week.”
I feel like I really had a chip on my shoulder because I knew last week, that was not me, because I knew I was better than that. So, once I got the opportunity to go back there and redeem myself, I had to make sure I took that opportunity and had to seize the moment.”
That statement right there is exactly what the rest of the Bucs’ secondary needs to hear. They also need to digest it about 100x over, week in and week out.
Because like Dean, they can get better with effort, with perseverance, and with the desire to correct their mistakes.
Sunday’s game gives the rest of this young secondary hope, if anything. If Dean can pick himself up off the mat in such a short time, then there’s plenty of reason to think the rest of these youngsters can do the same.
Dean knows this, too.
“It just gives us something to build off of because we all had a bad taste in our mouth. Now, after this win, we finally see the light, so now we’ve got something to build off of. That doesn’t mean we can relax. We just need to step it up each week [and] just take it one game at a time.”