In his fourth start as a Buccaneer last Sunday in Cleveland, veteran safety Major Wright looked to be a better fit in the defensive scheme than the recently departed Mark Barron. When the latter was traded for 2nd- and 6th-round picks at the deadline last week, many wondered how smooth the transition would be.
A game-leading 13 tackles later and the question, at least for now, was answered.
Wright, who was released by the team earlier in the season, remained humble about his impressive performance against Cleveland. But after a career-high 13 tackles, including one for a loss, he proved to have one of the better showings for the Buccaneers Sunday afternoon.
“I had a decent game,” Wright said this week. “I felt like I left some plays out there that I could’ve made, but I felt like it was a solid game. I put together a solid game.”
A major reason for his strong performance in Cleveland can be attributed to his familiarity with Lovie Smith and the Tampa 2 system. The former Gator spent his first four seasons in Chicago running the same defense.
On Thursday, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier talked about the importance of his knowledge and understanding of the language.
“With Major’s familiarity with the system it definitely helps,” Frazier said. “His communication, it helps a lot as far as having guys in the right spot and having a guy back there that’s so familiar with the defense. [He] can kind of anticipate things before they happen because he understands the scheme so well. So he’s going to definitely help us.
“He helped us on Sunday and he’s helped us even in practice with some of the things he’s been doing even before he started. His success on the back end will help our defense as well. It’s a plus for us having him back there.”
A few weeks ago, while still a backup, Wright claimed he didn’t completely understand the scheme until his second season in the league. Fast forward to Monday, after his first successful start for the Buccaneers, and many now want to know if the secondary as a whole is grasping it.
“I think so,” Wright said. “Watching this film, you live and you learn. I think now we’re focused on getting more depth and doing our jobs.”
One player who didn’t have a great game on Sunday is 2014 free agent acquisition Alterraun Verner. The former Pro Bowler allowed two costly completions, including one that resulted in the game-winning touchdown. However, Verner is of the same mindset as Wright. The fifth-year pro believes the defense is improving overall; it’s just about eliminating the few errors during critical moments.
“I think we’ve been cutting down the amount of mistakes we’ve been making,” Verner said. “The past couple of games, it’s been one or two. It just happened to be at such crucial times. That’s why we’ve been having close games and then that one mistake that we can’t afford to happen has cost us in a couple games.
“Obviously it’s not one play, but overall how the defense is supposed to be,” he continued. “The way we’ve been playing these past couple weeks is more how it’s supposed to be. I think it’s because of comfort and things like that.”
Verner also alluded to “thinking less” and “reacting more” as reason for improvements. Players are beginning to trust the once-foreign system.
“I think that’s what it is,” he said. “When you get this new scheme, you probably were thinking more about assignment, technique and things like that. Since we’ve played so many games at this point with most of the same guys, now it’s more like, ‘Okay, well I know what I can do, now let me go and make a play.’ It does have a lot to do with that.”
While Verner himself had a poor outing last Sunday, he still took some consolation from the loss with performances by his teammates. Along with Wright, another defensive back that had his best game of the season was Johnthan Banks. The second-year pro contributed with two crucial breakups in single coverage, while also snagging an interception. Verner spoke highly of the progressing cornerback and his hopeful future.
“You see the way Johnthan’s been playing,” Verner said. “He’s definitely been progressing really well. I’m looking forward to him doing some big things this game and I know he’s waiting for the challenge. It’s exciting to know that we are gelling and starting to get it together. It’s a little bit late in the season, later than what we wanted, but it’s good to see the progress.”
While the defense had promising moments last Sunday – especially in areas of coverage – players understand the Bay Area faithful are frustrated after the 1-7 start. But the players are remaining positive, as Wright ended his interview by pleading for fans to hang on during the tough times as the team continues to find its way.
“Just believe,” Wright said. “You have to believe in us. I think we’re getting closer. We keep saying it, but being in the inside, we feel it. Just believe.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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Some of those tackles were after he got either beat on the pass or wasn’t there fast enough. He has played okay which is adequate considering our other holes to fill. He is doing a better job than Barron for sure.
Major Wright was a major reason our defense finally began to gell. The way the Browns are beating up on Cincy tonight shows you how far we improved on defense last week in cold weather and away from home. I think you will see some revenge by the Bucs on the Birds Sunday for the beating they administered early this season.
“When the latter was traded for 2nd- and 4th-round picks at the deadline last week” – good article Zach, but I think you meant 4th and 6th round picks. I wish tho!
Interesting how the coaching staff is singing the praises of a player they cut and then kept on the bench. So much for the off-season evaluations. Defense played well enough to win these last two games. If the offense had scored more points we wouldn’t be singling out the defensive errors. All secondary players get beat.
I hope Wright continues to provide a boost to the defense. As for Banks, do a good job of covering J. Jones then we’ll talk. They are in the same division and around the same age. Also, Banks is the tallest CB we have. Verner is too short to cover Jones all game, especially in the red zone. I would only re-sign Banks after his contract ends if he can cover the tall WR’s in our division, J. Jones and K. Benjamin. If not, we need to keep searching until we find someone who can. Did you see last night how much having Haden shut down A.J. Green helps the Browns? That’s not the first time he’s done it either.
When given the chance Banks has shown he can cover man-to-man. Go back to the Detroit game last year, when Revis went out, Banks kept Megatron in check the entire 2nd half. He gave up less catches and yards compared to Revis. the problem is he is not always put on the big WR, just like last year when for some unknown reason L. Johnson was put on Jones at the end of the game
I think off season evaluations may be misleading-especially new coaching staffs. You have lousy offences practicing against lousy defenses. They all look great!
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