Throughout the season the Buccaneers defense has gotten steady production from their interior front with Gerald McCoy and Clinton McDonald. But now, with the help of newcomer Jacquies Smith finally providing the outside pressure they were looking for, the secondary unit is finally coming together as well.
Over a three-game span – where the team went 1-2 – the defense that was once competing for NFL’s worst, has swiftly climbed up the leader board in numerous stats. Top five in interceptions with four. Top five in sacks with 11. And they’ve given up an average of 171 yards passing a game.
What’s been the reason for the turnaround?
“I just think everything’s starting to work according to plans,” cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “I know it was asked before about adjustments and I think that’s the thing you see; the adjustments for everybody is starting to be a lot smoother.
“I wouldn’t necessarily say just the secondary’s been playing better. I think all phases have been doing well. You see Jacquies Smith making a lot of pressure, Gerald McCoy getting to the quarterback, so that’s helping us in the secondary. Then the linebackers have been doing a great job and you see Johnthan [Banks] keep making plays and improving every week. So I think it’s a big statement from the whole defense that the passing numbers have been down.”
The dominant presence of McCoy is well documented. As is the emergence of Smith, who’s looked far superior to the team’s highest paid edge rusher, Michael Johnson. But the last guy Verner mentioned, Johnthan Banks, has embodied the defense’s newfound success.
“I’m very, very proud of that,” Verner said of Banks’ improvement. “Somebody that might have success early here like he did, even like in the Browns game and the ones before, probably would be resting on his laurels saying, ‘I’ve been playing really good.’ But you see that he’s hungry for more and he wants to be the best. He’s like, ‘Okay, they’re talking about this guy Alterraun over here, but shoot, I’m the one making plays.’ And you can tell that that’s the way he approaches things. He doesn’t say that but he just lets his play do that. That’s what I’ve been most impressed with him.
“No task is too big for him, he’s going to match up with anybody, he’s going to have confidence and you can just see that he wants to get better and improve every week. In practice he gets on himself if he doesn’t get a jam or if he misses a pick, and that’s his work ethic. And that’s what I’m most by and you see it every week with him. It causes me to be a better football player because I can’t just let him be the only one that’s improving. It’s a fun thing to watch.”
Although a highly touted second-round pick in 2013, Banks’ emergence is somewhat surprising when you think back to training camp. When Lovie Smith and the new regime came in, many believed that it would be Mike Jenkins starting opposite to Alterraun Verner. And while that may have been the vision at first, the former’s injury gave way to the 6-2 corner, and he, nor the coaches, have looked back since.
“Coach (Smith) didn’t draft me and I know it’s a business,” Banks said. “I just had to go out and perform. Mike (Jenkins), he’s been in the league seven years, and I could’ve sat behind him and Verner, learned and still gotten my playing time.
“But it worked out for me to be the starter this whole year. This is just a blessing that I was in this role. Coach stuck with me this season. They really did push me a lot. I didn’t know what type of player that I was, I just came to work. I didn’t care what happened. I just came in here to get better every day. I mean it worked out for me.”
“Well I definitely think competition brings out the best”, said Lovie Smith. “I know that’s coach talk, but it does keep you at the top of your game throughout and knowing that there was competition. We want competition at all positions. I think that can motivate you a little bit, but I think Johnthan Banks was motivated just by being the best player he can be.
Since missing a potential game winning interception against the Vikings in Week 8, Banks has since picked off four passes which ties him for third in the league.
“That’s one thing I’ve always done well, see the ball and get around the ball all the time,” Banks said. “It’s happened for me. It happened for me in college and it’s starting to happen for me now.”
“We’ve seen a lot of improvement just from him,” Smith said. “He’s had some unfortunate things happen this year, but lately like the rest of the defense, he’s picked up the pace. Of course for our DB’s, they’re looking forward (to Detroit) as I talked about earlier. We’ll see exactly how far we’ve come this week.”
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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I like what I am seeing from the defense – Bansk and Verner for sure….but let’s hold the Champaign corks for a little bit until we do it against Aaron Rodgers and Megatron and Brees coming-up…that will be the real test to see if we have turned a corner, or just played some poor offenses lately.
I myself am a believer in Coach Smith. Here I thought just a few weeks ago our priority was RDE, but other DL players have stepped up and it’s not as imortant as the QB and OL is now the top priority. I could see us drafting offense Rounds 1-4.
Yup the Defense has improved against RGIII, Cutler, and Dalton. QB Turnover machines against any team. Can they remove Calvin Johnson from the Lions’ game plan? Can they hold Aaron Rodgers to under 300 yards? I’d prefer to judge my favorite team against quality competition. There is after all, a huge difference between making the playoffs, & being a playoff caliber team. We should demand more from our team than just: not to lose.
OOOPS, Well, what EastEndBoy said. I hadn’t read the other posts yet. My bad man, I stole your stuff.
I am really impressed with Banks as well. Vernor is a solid starting CB on a 2-10 team. I watched Banks in college, he has made some great interceptions…hes faster than his timed speed. Just wish he would get stronger. Banks might make a good slot corner if given the opportunity. Like the play of J. Smith and Lansanah too. Oline is the worst ive ever seen..and thats entirely lovie’s fault. Glennon can play in an offense that isnt a patchwork project put together after training camp..he got great numbers for a young guy too despite all the drama. McCown needs to sit so we can evaluate glennon the last 4 games
It too Ronde three years before he became, well…..Ronde. For some reason, our lack of tolerance for Banks’ early development miscues caused some to think he was the second coming of Rod “Toast” Jones. Whether we’re playing a superstar QB or not, the secondary has improved a lot since the bye week. Let’s hope the continuity, familiarity with the system and an infusion of more competition this coming off-season produces a secondary that resembles the one Ronde and # 47 led.
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