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June 23, 2014 @ 8:00 am
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5 Questions Heading Into Training Camp: Nickel Corner

Written by Mark
Cook
Mark Cook

Mark
Cook

Editor-In-Chief E-mail: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
The Buccaneers organization and its fans are excited for the 2014 training camp and upcoming season, but a number of positions are far from settled. PewterReport.com begins a five-day series looking at the most intriguing battles and unanswered questions heading into training camp.
The Buccaneers players are on vacation until they have to report back to Tampa on July 23 to begin what many are hoping and expecting to be a rebound season from the 4-12 disaster of 2013. Excitement abounds with Lovie Smith now in place as the team’s head coach, and an influx of new players that the organization hopes fills holes in the roster have fans excited about the possibilities in 2014. While the mood surrounding the franchise is as positive as it has been in a number of years, there are still some areas of concern on the roster.

This week, PewterReport.com counts down the five biggest questions heading into training camp. While there are certainly more than five, these are the ones that present the biggest questions about and will be closely scrutinized once camp opens.

Camp Question No. 5: WHO WILL BE THE STARTING NICKEL BACK?
Players In The Mix: D. J. Moore, Leonard Johnson, Danny Gorrer, Deveron Carr, Quinton Pointer

The hiring of Smith as head coach ushers back in the Tampa 2 defense made popular – and extremely effective – by former head coach Tony Dungy back in the glory days for Tampa Bay. Smith was the Buccaneers linebackers coach under Dungy and saw the success of the scheme first hand before taking it to St. Louis where we was the Rams defensive coordinator and then  to Chicago after being hired as the Bears head coach.

Part of a successful Tampa 2 scheme is the play of the nickel back that handles the inside when the defense goes into a nickel situation (five defensive backs - three cornerbacks and two safeties). Long-time fan favorite Ronde Barber spent part of his career in that position and it was from that role Barber intercepted Donovan McNabb’s late fourth quarter pass in the 2002 NFC Championship game that propelled the Buccaneers to the Super Bowl in San Diego. Who will play this key role for Tampa Bay in 2014?

With Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner is established as the starter at cornerback on one side, Tampa Bay brought in former USF and Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins to compete with Johnthan Banks for the right to be the every down cornerback in the base 4-3 alignment. However, the loser of the starting battle between Banks and Jenkins will not find themselves as the nickel role, but rather on the bench. That's because the nickel – or slot – cornerback is a different position in Tampa Bay under Smith and is taught by Larry Marmie, a dedicated nickel backs coach, rather than cornerbacks coach Gil Byrd.

The Buccaneers signed free agent D.J. Moore, a player who Smith previously coached in Chicago. Moore, a five-year veteran, has 10 interceptions in his career, including two that were returned for touchdowns. In a recent press conference, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said that Moore, due to his experience in the system, might have the upper hand at this point.

Leonard Johnson was the team's starting nickel cornerback last year, but not in the Cover 2 scheme. He struggled with the transition from moving from outside to the slot position, but did have a key pick-six in the Bucs' win at Detroit last year. Tampa Bay began working cornerback Danny Gorrer in the nickel role during the team’s OTAs and mini-camps this offseason, and he proved versatile enough to play both inside and outside.

A player to keep an eye on also is Quinton Pointer, who has been impressive during the offseason workouts, nabbing a number of interceptions this spring in practice. He is also in the mix along with holdover Deveron Carr, who was with the team last year as a reserve.

PewterReport.com’s Early Bet As Starter: Moore
Moore’s experience and success in the system gives him the edge to win the role in training camp. As a Chicago Bear, the 5-foot-9, 190-pounder had 22 pass breakups, 10 interceptions, scored two touchdowns had a sack and a forced fumble. Look for Banks to win the starting cornerback role opposite Verner, and for Jenkins to be the primary corner backup with Moore on the field in nickel situations. Rashaan Melvin is also in the conversation to compete with Jenkins to be the third cornerback behind Verner and Banks.

TRAINING CAMP QUESTIONS SERIES SCHEDULE
Training Camp Question No. 5 - Nickel Cornerbacks (Monday)
Training Camp Question No. 4 - Left Defensive End (Tuesday)
Training Camp Question No. 3 - Guards (Wednesday)

Training Camp Question No. 2 - Running Backs (Thursday)
Training Camp Question No. 1 -
Third Wide Receiver (Friday)
Last modified on Friday, 27 June 2014 09:09
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COMMENTS

  • avatar


    I will be happy with whoever wins the nickel back position. Glad we have this level of competition!
  • avatar

    Again Scubog... I didn't say I was perfect in my writing in any way and again I do not write for a living so it is not as necessary for me to be... And my elipses are merely a tool to separate my comments since the blog runs everything together... And again since my comment had nothin to do with you I find it odd that you are dedicating so much of your precious or not so precious time towards addressing it... I will take constructive criticism all day from someone who deserves the time and respect to provide it which I'm not certain that you do... I do not claim to hold that distinction myself either seeing as how my suggestion to the publication was simply that... A suggestion... It was not intended as a criticism nor was it intended to be disrespectful... It was just something that I noticed and thought maybe their correction program was missing things that could easily be fixed in case they were not aware... Now I have better things to do with my time than do a back and forth with you as I truly hope you do as well... So if you don't mind could we go back to talking football? Would that be alright with you Mr. Scubog? And I would like to consider this matter closed so unless you decide to make a scene here... Any further snide comments you feel necessary to submit you will merely be talking to yourself...
  • avatar

    Im on the Gorrer bandwagon as well. Im okay with The loser of the Banks/Jenkins competition not being involved with the nickel competition because i dont think either guy fits the spot. Banks is a bigger corner who uses his length and size as an asset. I dont think he has the agility to be effective against smaller/shiftier WR. If I recall correctly there was also an article posted here that Jenkins got chewed up when he tried to play nickel CB with Dallas.
  • avatar


    Love Me Some Fire: To pick up where you left on in the Fab 5 article comments section; I noticed a few grammatical errors in your rather wordy offering in which you repeated the same thought over and over. I know you appreciate constructive criticism and want to be as helpful as possible. I'm curious if the three periods at the end of each sentence is intentional of if you have a twitchy period finger. Oops, might have opened the door for a finger response of another kind. We're number 1, indeed.
  • avatar

    I seriously hope that they won't be sitting the loser of the Banks/Jenkins battle just to be the back up and not consider the odd man out for the Nickel spot... I understand that not just anyone can excel at the Nickel spot so if the odd man out of the starting battle isn't best suited for the Nickel spot as say one of the other backups are then that is fine... But if the odd man out would be better at the Nickel spot than any of the other back ups then I seriously hope that they will train him there instead of sticking him on the bench waiting for if/when one of the starters go down... Because letting him play at the Nickel spot will give him valuable playing time for if/when he has to go in to one of the starting spots... They can then take whoever is best suited out of the rest of the back ups and train them specifically for the Nickel spot so that he can take over when needed... I just think that it would be best to have your best 3 CBs on the field whenever possible... And unless one of the other back ups is just head and shoulders above the odd man out of the starter battle I just don't see how you couldn't at least try to have him on the field... Again I understand it is a specialty type spot that not just anyone can play but I find it hard to believe that Banks or Jenkins couldn't be trained to play Nickel... We will see I guess... Hopefully they will make the right choice and have the best players at each position on the field...
  • avatar


    I'd like to see Gorrer get a shot to start somewhere on this defense. I know Gorrer is infamous for dropping that game winning INT against the Eagles in 2012 and I admit that really pissed me off, but he has done nothing but impress me since then. He had an INT against the Rams later that year that demonstrated superb hand eye coordination and body control (he had his back to the QB and caught it in the back of the endzone). He had a very heads up and athletic INT in the 2013 preseason game against the Ravens. Also, PR has reported he has looked really good this offseason. After Verner of course, no other CB on the roster is trending up more than Gorrer. He has instincts, measureables, experience and pretty good production. The only thing I don't know is how he fairs as a tackler, which is more important in this defense. We'll find that out in the preseason. Go Bucs!
  • avatar


    Nice job Mark. It's difficult, in these down times, to keep your readers informed and interested. I think the "back four" are going to have a massive impact on the success of 2014 and your analysis is appreciated.
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