“The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secondary believes it is time to step out of Tom Brady’s shadow. Even though he is the current NFL MVP and has led the Patriots to back-to-back Super Bowl wins, cornerback Alterraun Verner believes the Buccaneers secondary has what it takes to make some noise. With a dependable edge rusher, an emerging young safety and a strong defensive line, the Bucs feel they can be the next defense to knock off Brady and the Patriots.
If you were to take a poll of NFL players’ favorite quarterbacks in league history, Tom Brady would be in the top five, and you’d be hard-pressed to find one player who would place him lower than second. Reasons for that are varied; most players know their place, and Brady has been Brady for as long as many of them have been playing the game.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the most storied NFL franchises over the past several decades, but recently a lack of respect has marked the organization.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — It was previously thought to be the Achilles’ heel of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the greatest roadblock to Tom Brady earning a seventh Super Bowl victory.
During the 2020 regular season, the league’s youngest secondary allowed a 69 percent completion rate, which was the fourth most in the league. When the stakes were heightened in the playoffs, though, those defensive backs tightened up, allowing a 59.7% completion rate.
Cornerback Jamel Dean remarked of the change, “I don’t know what occurred — it just happened.” “I was simply thinking to myself, ‘Perhaps we’ve finally matured.’”
Grew up and earned a new nickname, which came from a tweet by Carlton Davis after the Bucs’ NFC divisional playoff upset of the New Orleans Saints, in which they limited Drew Brees to a 57.1 percent completion percentage (and picked him off three times).
“I don’t have access to an island. Davis tweeted with a skull and crossbones emoji, “I gotta cemetery.” He posted a picture of safety Jordan Whitehead and inside linebacker Devin White with the phrase “Grave Diggers” the following day.
It stayed with me. And the secondary did not disappoint.
It limited Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a 53.1 percent completion percentage and twice intercepted him (White produced a pick in that game as well as the game against the Saints). Despite being without both starting safeties — Antoine Winfield Jr. and Whitehead — in the second half, it held off Packers quarterback and league MVP Aaron Rodgers in the NFC championship game.
“Look what you accomplished, that young secondary who no one believed could do s—-!” During the Bucs’ ring ceremony, Brady shouted during a stirring speech in which he named each defensive back by name.
In Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl victory, Carlton Davis and the Bucs defense limited Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a 53.1 percent completion percentage. Chris O’Meara/AP Photo
Despite quietly helping the Bucs become one of the league’s best defenses, the group is relatively unknown outside of Brady and Bucs fans — with the exception of Winfield, whose father, Antoine Winfield Sr., played for 14 seasons. Winfield Jr. also garnered attention for imitating Tyreek Hill’s “peace out” gesture before the Super Bowl, which Hill made after racking up 269 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Week 12.
Sean Murphy-Bunting, a second-round draft selection out of Central Michigan who is currently in his third year, stated, “We’re all unknown people trying to create a name for ourselves.”
Carlton Davis, who kept Pro Bowler Michael Thomas without a catch on four targets in the NFL divisional round, stated, “I believe in this game it’s all about respect, and I don’t think we received the respect that we needed, as a DB corps or even as a defense.” “This year, I believe we have something to prove. It’s all about respect, and I want to earn it this year.”
To Davis’ point, the first picture that comes up when you Google his name isn’t even of Davis. It’s Murphy-Bunting, who led the Bucs with three interceptions and two pass breakups in the playoffs, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers Aeneas Williams, Ed Reed, and Jason Sehorn as the only players in Super Bowl history to have a pick in each of his first three playoff games.
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Murphy-Bunting stated, “I don’t think of myself as the man who grabbed three interceptions in the playoffs.” “Every day, I see myself as the person who is simply eager to work. I’m an underdog; I’ve always been an underdog, and I’ve always been ignored. I won’t pretend to be a champion in that regard, but my work ethic and other attributes will remain strong.”
The Buccaneers’ secondary believes there are many areas where they can improve this season. For one thing, Dean, now in his third season after graduating from Auburn, is finally grasping the three-step technique, which requires eye discipline and anticipation and enables a cornerback to get a jump on a pass. Dean showed flashes of it in Week 17 against the Atlanta Falcons when he broke up a slant pattern, but defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has seen a significant difference in Dean in training camp.
Bowles said, “I believe a year ago, he couldn’t accept that, so we had to do a number of various things not to put him in that position.” “From a development perspective, he sees it as a real corner this year in that scenario. That was a significant step forward, but we must continue to work.”
Mike Evans, a wide receiver, has seen a change.
“They’ve always put out effort and enthusiasm. It’s all about technique and understanding route ideas “Evans said. “Each year, they improve. I’m looking forward to seeing what they come up with this year. There’s a lot to learn when you first start playing this game. You’re up against the greatest of all time. You must be able to learn on the go. This year, I believe, will be their best.”
Bowles has also worked with the team on better knowing the ins and outs of his system, as well as everyone’s responsibilities within it, as well as the “whys,” rather than simply playing the defense that’s called. When this is done, players may be able to take more measured risks.
Now that his crew has more experience, he has the opportunity to extend the playbook even more. Bowles will not have a rookie starting on the offensive line for the first time in his career. The Buccaneers haven’t started a rookie in their secondary since 2014.
“They throw so many things at you that first year just learning the system and everything like that,” Winfield said. “However, after a year in the system, I simply feel like my mental game is a little bit sharper and stronger than last year…
“The more you do something, the more you get those similar looks like, ‘OK, I know what I’m meant to do now,’ which allows me to play my game a little quicker.”
This group will benefit from consistency, and the players believe it will aid communication. At cornerback, Davis, Dean, and Murphy-Bunting are anticipated to start again, with Whitehead mainly serving as a strong safety and Winfield as a free safety, with Mike Edwards rotating in at safety. After recording several interceptions during training camp, including a three-pick practice this week off of Blaine Gabbert and Ryan Griffin, Ross Cockrell, a crucial reserve last season, may be in the mix — perhaps even at both spots.
Coach Bruce Arians thinks they can improve their consistency as well as their takeaways. During the regular season, the Buccaneers were sixth in the league with 15 interceptions, three more than in 2019. In 2020, however, they had 55 pass breakups. Several of the plays resulted in interceptions.
“I can’t go for PBUs because they don’t seem to earn you All-Pro,” Dean said.
“Albert Lewis was one of the best corners I ever saw,” Arians added. “He’s the same height as Davis and looks a lot like him. Albert was unable to catch. You couldn’t finish anything on him, yet he earned the championship of batting balls away.”
The New England Patriots’ defense, on the other hand, had 25 interceptions in 2019. In 2018, the Chicago Bears had 27. It should be noted, though, that interceptions were down leaguewide in 2020, with no team finishing with more than 18.
This year, a greater focus has been placed on situational football, with more two-minute scenarios, closing out halves, closing out games, red zone situations, and coming out of halftime being used.
“They’re still growing,” says the narrator. “They’re all extremely young,” Arians said. “The better they comprehend what they’re doing and what’s being done to them, the better they’ll be able to play. I believe the whole secondary school can improve significantly.”
Evans hopes that his message is heard.
“If I had to choose one, our secondary is arguably the greatest secondary in the game,” Evans said.
The St. Louis Rams’ first-round pick, quarterback Sam Bradford, was limited to nine plays by a knee injury in his first exhibition game. Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie defensive tackle Akeem Spence was a healthy scratch in Dallas, despite being the seventh overall pick in the draft. But the spotlight remains firmly fixed on Tom Brady, the New England Patriots’ 15-year veteran.. Read more about tampa bay lightning and let us know what you think.
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