With the Buccaneers’ starting and second-team cornerbacks still unavailable to practice Monday, Tampa Bay signed free agent and former Buffalo Bill, Ashton Youboty.
Listed starting left corner Aqib Talib (hamstring) and backup Myron Lewis (hamstring) remained sidelined and questionable for Thursday night’s home-opening preseason matchup against New England. Also out of commission in the secondary is rookie free safety Ahmad Black, who began sporting a walking boot on his right foot yesterday because of a high ankle sprain.
Both the team and defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake got a first look at Youboty on Monday. When asked if the transaction was in response to the injuries currently affecting Talib and Lewis, Lake said that was not exactly the case.
“We’re always going to be collecting corners and that’s what we’re going to do as an organization,” he said. “You can’t have enough corners. So the more able bodies that are big and fast and can run; we’re going to bring them in here by the dozen.”
Youboty, 5-foot-11, 189-pounds, is no unfamiliar face to the Bucs’ fourth-year coach, either. “I’m very familiar with him. I [evaluated] him when he was coming out of college in 2006. I liked him coming out of Ohio State and I watched him from afar through his pro career. When a talented guy like that is on the street with no job and we’ve got an opportunity to pick him up, we’re going to pick him up.”
Youboty made seven starts during his five-year stint in Buffalo and appeared in 13 games last season. He totaled 52 tackles, seven passes defensed, one interception and two sacks over that time.
As it currently stands, and if Talib and Lewis are both no-goes, second-team corner E.J. Biggers appears to be the likely option to fill in as a starter. The Bucs also have rookie Anthony Gaitor, Elbert Mack, D.J. Johnson and Vince Anderson lower on the depth chart.
The Bucs’ newest late-camp addition also spoke with reporters following Monday’s fully padded practice and said he is pleased to have a chance to prove himself in Tampa.
“It’s a good fit any time you get an opportunity in the league,” Youboty said. “It’s huge; we’ve got 2,000 players in the league … So vets like me, we’re just looking for an opportunity to get a chance to prove ourselves.”
Neither Lake nor Youboty could confirm if the new corner will be suited up and active for Thursday’s home game, but that’s the immediate goal for both.
“[His first practice] went well, but he’s got a lot of catching up to do,” Lake said. “We had some extra meeting time today, we’ll have some extra meeting time tomorrow; as much as it takes to get him ready for the game. But for today being his first day, he played well.”
Working in the 27-year-old’s favor, he said, is his general familiarity with Tampa Bay’s defensive sets. “Overall I have a concept of the scheme. I ran it for my first four years in Buffalo.”
Youboty said it’ll be a quick transition from getting into One Buccaneer Place on Monday and then onto the field to contribute by Thursday, but that’s the expectation.
“The sooner the better,” he said. “I’ve already got a grasp of the base concept – pick up the nickel as time goes by and see what happens.”
Lake said it was too early to give a firm answer on Youboty’s availability Thursday or his playing-potential at the nickel cornerback position.
“That’s what we’ll see out here in practice,” Lake said. “We’ve got to see if he’s going to make the plays, we’ve got to see if he’s going to pick up the technique and all of our schemes. All that takes care of itself out here on the grass.”