With veterans reporting to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 2014 training camp tomorrow, one of the most solid positions on the depth chart, despite offseason changes, is at cornerback. Against a pass-heavy division with Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, and Cam Newton as opposing quarterbacks, the Bucs needed to upgrade their secondary. Head coach Lovie Smith did that and much more.
Darrelle Revis was a classic example of an overpaid and underperforming player in Tampa Bay. Cutting him loose was necessary, but getting Alterraun Verner to replace him was arguably Smith’s best move of the offseason. Verner stacked up five interceptions and 22 deflections last year in Tennessee, and at the age of 25, he may just be entering his prime. The Bucs can look forward to his services for at least the next four years, and he could quickly become a leader for the entire team.
Looking across the field, nothing changes. Promising sophomore Johnthan Banks looks to replicate and even improve upon his rookie season, where he was a force in the running game as well as passing with 55 tackles and three picks. He’ll get to learn from Verner and should be able to lock down the number two spot on the depth chart.
In today’s NFL, the nickel corner might as well be considered a starter with how often they are on the field. Mike Jenkins, last year of the Raiders and a Cowboy before that, will provide some veteran savvy for the secondary. At 29, he by no means is past his days of contributing on an NFL roster, though the youth of Banks and Verner might be a little more apparent in the early days of training camp and the high temperatures they bring. Jenkins may feel he has something to prove around the young stars, but a defensive player with a chip on his shoulder is never a bad thing.
The most interesting battle in camp at cornerback will be for the dime and quarter spots. Rashaan Melvin, Quinton Porter, Leonard Johnson, and Deveron Carr are all under 26 years old, but all will need to shine in camp to earn their spot on this roster. Johnson is the safest, playing in all 16 games last year. While he’s the early leader for the dime job, Porter, Melvin, and Carr could all take it if one of them excels in preseason action.
As a Tampa Bay fan, you certainly like how things look at the top for cornerbacks on this defense. Barring an injury, it could have sleeper potential as one of the best secondaries in the league. When you are looking at the four and five spots as the only positions up for grabs on the depth chart, you have to feel pretty solid about the position.