Buccaneers cornerback E. J. Biggers is used to being the underdog. And not only does he not mind it, he welcomes it and uses it as motivation.
Despite a solid four-year career for the Western Michigan Broncos, Biggers wasn’t selected until the seventh round in the 2009 draft by the Buccaneers. After fighting the odds of being a late-round draft pick, the Miami native made the roster only to be lost for the season after suffering a shoulder injury in practice during the first week of the regular season.
“It was really tough at the time,” Biggers said. “But you have to realize everything happens for a reason. I just had to get in the playbook and film room and come back better.”
Defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake told PewterReport.com that Biggers is quietly having a good season.
“He has played excellent,” Lake said. “He's made a lot of plays. He set up Ronde [Barber's] interception. His first interception [he] tipped the ball to Ronde. He comes in [and] he is our third corner [and] really goes unnoticed for the most part. But Biggers has played excellent up to this point.”
Biggers understands there is still much to learn but has shown the coaches and his teammates he is willing to work to improve. Coach Lake is constantly reminding his defensive backs to finish plays and Biggers is taking the advice to heart,
“I feel like there's always room to get better,” Biggers said. “I watched Ronde Barber and Aqib, and like I tell everybody, these are my two big brothers in the locker room. I’m working hard to get to the level of those guys.
“So finishing plays is what I am focusing on. Of course sometimes you are going to get caught [beaten for a catch], but if you're finishing plays you will be lot more successful.”
With one interception so far to go along with seven passes defensed, Biggers ranks third on the team behind Ronde Barber (10) and Aqib Talib (8). Talib is impressed with the third-year corner and said Biggers has improved every year.
“I think he's doing a great job, personally,” Talib said. “Some of those big games where we needed to win, like the Falcons and the first Saints game, those were two of his better games of the season. He keeps showing up in games like that then it won't be long and he will be the man.
“His confidence is really improved and at a totally different level than it was last year. That comes with playing in big games against big-time players like Roddy White. Just the repetition of getting to play gives him that confidence.”
Talib also said he welcomes the opportunity to be a mentor to Biggers and the other younger defensive backs on the roster.
“Definitely having a younger player look up to you makes you want to go out there and practice harder,” Talib said. “I still look at Ronde and it makes me want to go out there and practice everyday. Younger guys now look to me so it just gets passed down the line and I do my part.”
Safety Tanard Jackson agreed with Lake and Talib’s assessment.
“E.J. really holds his own,” Jackson said. “I don’t even look at him as a seventh-round draft pick. He's a guy who has gotten better every year since he's been here and he's standing up. I think he's become a student of the game and is constantly learning from guys like Ronde and Talib. I think the sky is the limit for him.”
With Jackson, Talib and veteran Barber on the field, Lake knows offensive coordinators are going to take their shots at Biggers.
“Yes, I think I would, too,” Lake said. “Especially from the outside because he's the outside corner so you have Aqib Talib on one side and then this seventh-round, no-name guy on the other side.
"They will definitely go over there, but I don’t think they've had a lot of production his way if you go back and look at it. I don’t think they've had a lot of production going at Biggers.”
Biggers agreed with Lake and said he would do the same thing.
“Hey, if I’m the offensive coordinator and I see Aqib and Ronde and Tanard Jackson, then I’m throwing at No. 31 also,” Biggers said. “Those are two of the best corners in the league. I’ll tell everybody that each and every time.
“But I’m not afraid of it and I love the challenge. I love being involved and helping my team. Our defense is capable of great things, we just have to keep finishing plays.”