The Buccaneers have spent a lot of time since their Super Bowl championship, losing young talent from their defensive backfield. When Tampa Bay won the title in 2020, they boasted a very inexperienced group of safeties and since then the team has lost a solid chunk of the players who contributed heavily during that season. The Bucs have been lucky to have the ever-versatile Antione Winfield Jr. for the past three seasons, but the rest of the seats in the safety room have been rotated like a game of musical chairs. So—
Who is JL Skinner?
JL Skinner played his high school ball at Point Loma High School before committing to a collegiate career at Boise State. As a freshman, Skinner saw little opportunity and subsequently had little impact on game days. 2020 was his sophomore season and his first genuine introduction to college football. Skinner finished the second season of his college career with a respectable 37 tackles and his first career interception.
Primed for a breakout Junior campaign, the six-foot four-inch safety delivered what was easily his most dominant all-around season at Boise State. Skinner tallied nearly 100 total tackles while forcing his first fumble. In addition to his 92 tackles, Skinner accounted for a fantastic five total turnovers forced. In his senior season, JL Skinner regressed in nearly every statistic with the exception of a very crucial one, interceptions. While his total turnovers accounted for decreased in 2022, Skinner’s interceptions doubled.
As a prospect JL Skinner stands out. He is every bit of his six-foot four-inch 200+ pound frame. During the Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Skinner was easy to spot as he was, at times, a full head above his peers. Although his stature would lend towards a box safety playstyle when Skinner was asked about his comfortability at different positions he said, “I feel comfortable anywhere honestly, being down in the box [is] just kind of using my attributes a little bit more I’d say, but I feel comfortable everywhere.” The positional movement, during his week of practice in Mobile, did allow Skinner to show off some of his range as a single high safety.
The main question is while his height can grab any onlooker’s attention, can his play maintain it?
Watching him closely throughout his week of practice in Mobile it would be easy to come away somewhat frustrated by his play. There were too many inconsistencies from day to day or even drill to drill. Skinner walks on the field with such a presence you would expect that his performance would be in line with that, however that wasn’t always the case. Of course, there were plenty of eye-catching moments to reinforce his potential—
he problem was for each eye-catching moment there were equally as many head-scratching moments. This ebb and flow between excitements and concerns was a main reason why Skinner was featured in our ‘This week at the Senior Bowl series.’ Some of his inconsistencies have not been exclusive to practice, breathing life into the old “You practice like you play” cliche.
I get the appeal of having a lust for destroying the ball carrier every play, but sometimes JL Skinner (0) can be a bit over-aggressive.— Jackson Powers (Sign a NT) (@jpownfl) March 26, 2023
Here when Jaren Hall takes off, Skinner is ready to crush his sternum before one simple juke puts him on skates pic.twitter.com/A54HOXRCzA
One of the more interesting things mentioned by Skinner during Senior Bowl week was when he was directly confronted with the prospect of playing in Tampa Bay, for the Buccaneers. Skinner did not mince words saying, “I [would] be grateful for it honestly, my dad lives in Jacksonville, so I’ve been around Florida a couple of times, been to Tampa Bay… It would be fun to be down there.” So how would the Boise State product fit ‘down there’ in Tampa Bay?
Over the past few seasons, who have the Buccaneers lost at the position?
Jordan Whitehead- Jordan Whitehead is the team’s most noteworthy departure at the safety position since the conclusion of the 2020 season. Whitehead was poached from Tampa Bay by the New York Jets during the 2022 offseason. New York lured Whitehead away from the Bucs with a two-year deal worth over 14 million dollars. The safety had proven to be a reliable starter for the Buccaneers during his time with the team. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Whitehead finished his rookie deal playing some of his best football for Tampa Bay. One of the main reasons that the Buccaneers could be so comfortable with losing a talented player like Whitehead, who had starting experience in their system was the team had another talented player waiting in the wings to fill any potential void, Mike Edwards. Unfortunately—
Mike Edwards- Mike Edwards joined the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, via the draft, one year after Jordan Whitehead and one round earlier. Throughout a large portion of his career in Tampa, Mike Edwards was a rotational player. He came in situationally, or to fill in when players were injured but was never able to usurp Jordan Whitehead or Antione Winfield Jr. as an every-down starter for the team. In his short-lived stints of playing time, Edwards always managed to find himself around or with the ball, a very admirable trait for any defensive player. This trend earned Edwards recognition as perhaps the most natural ‘ballhawk’ in the secondary, even if he was not the group’s best player. 2022 was the first season in which Edwards would be called upon to start. The Kentucky product would go on to have a solid season for himself recording a career high 82 tackles, snagging two interceptions, and taking one of the two to the endzone for a score against former teammate, now current rival, Jameis Winston and the New Orleans Saints. Edwards played well enough to garner attention from other NFL teams this offseason so, following in the footsteps of his predecessor, Edwards departed and will now be intercepting quarterbacks in the AFC West as a member of the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Buccaneers have also- While Jordan Whitehead and Mike Edwards were prospects handpicked by Jason Licht and the Buccaneers the team has also lost some valuable journeyman-type role players in recent years as well. Andrew Adams is a lesser-known name throughout casual NFL circles, but the safety was a member of Tampa Bay’s roster from 2018-2021. In those four seasons Adams recorded over 100 tackles and six interceptions. Not the production of a star player, but solid contribution from a player in a backup role with the team. After leaving Tampa Bay, Adams went on to have a career year. He set a new personal best of 62 tackles and scored his first ever touchdown with the Tennessee Titans. Keanu Neal was another journeyman that Tampa brought in during the 2022 offseason who was not slated to be a starter however, due to injuries and the unavailability of other players in the safety room, the depth of the unit was tested and intermittently Neal was thrust into action. In Tampa Bay Neal was able to play a full season’s worth of games for the first time since 2017 and handled himself fairly well. His 63 tackles, half sack, and one interception were enough to nab him a multi-year deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Logan Ryan, who appeared in a little more than half of last season’s games and snatched a very memorable and equally as crucial interception off of Aaron Rodgers against the Green Bay Packers is also a free agent this offseason. At the time of this article, he still remains unsigned, meaning there is a chance the Buccaneers will not lose him.
A new face in the Bay- After the confirmed loss of Keanu Neal, Tampa Bay went fishing in the free agency pool. They came back with another Neal on the hook. The Buccaneers have officially agreed to terms with former Seattle Seahawks safety Ryan Neal. The signing may mean Tampa feels that they have already found their replacement at the safety position heading into next season—
New Bucs safety Ryan Neal was graded the 4th best safety in the NFL last season. (@PFF)— Matthew Hewitt (@bucs_tracker) April 4, 2023
Interestingly enough, Neal’s build is quite similar to that of Skinner. Listed at 200 pounds, Neal stands at six feet three inches tall, making him another large athlete at the position. Neal is coming off a career year with Seattle that, statistically, is eerily similar to the production provided by Keanu Neal last season. Each of the two racked up just over 60 tackles, had accounted for a sack, and an interception in 2022.
Todd Bowles has shown a consistent ability to work extremely well with a wide variety of safeties during his tenure in Tampa. Not only has he coached a large quantity of individuals but a good mix of body types, playstyles, and scheme fits. The Buccaneers may have seen JL Skinner’s work throughout the pre-draft process and are operating under the impression that if there is anyone who can get the most out of a prospect like Skinner it would be the man that they have at the helm. JL Skinner would be a unique athlete to add for the Bucs defense because the team has not had many at the position with his natural gifts. If he were to be drafted by Tampa Bay his length, in tandem with the polar opposite skill set of a player like Antione Winfield Jr., could be a very fun pairing to watch for years to come.
Should the Buccaneers look into drafting JL Skinner?
This poll is closed
Yes! He is HUGE. His size will be such an advantage!
I think there are better safety options available this year.
Why are we drafting a safety?