Photo by: Mark LoMoglio/PR
A new coaching staff will mean new life for some Buccaneers, according to Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht. In an exclusive interview with Licht at the Senior Bowl, Licht confirmed that cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner would be back in Tampa Bay in 2016. Both cornerbacks had fallen out of favor – and the starting lineup – this past year when head coach Lovie Smith took full control of the defense.
Banks started the first three games of the season before injuring his knee. When he returned to the starting lineup, he was promptly benched near midseason before finally seeing action with the starting lineup late in the year. Banks was a two-year starter in his first two years in Tampa Bay, recording seven interceptions and 15 during that span. Banks had just 25 tackles, one pass breakup and no interceptions last year.
Bucs CB Johnthan Banks – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“I don’t want to speak in great detail for our defensive coaches but I will say this, they are excited to work with Johnthan Banks,” Licht said. “He’s a big, long guy with really great ball skills. They’re excited to implement him and use his skills in this scheme.”
Banks took to Twitter on Tuesday, January 26 to say, “Heading back to Tampa didn’t know if I would be making this trip again or not!” and “I’m so excited to get back to work!”
The Bucs secondary was an absolute mess all year under Smith’s watch as he failed to decide on a starting lineup outside of safety Chris Conte. Smith was impatient and had a quick hook due to poor performance on the field. He wound up starting six different cornerbacks and four different safeties in 2015. The secondary carousel kept churning even into Week 17, which was ridiculous.
New Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith saw Banks play twice a year in 2013 and ’14 and is eager to work with the 6-foot-2, 185-pound cornerback, who is entering a contract year.
“I got very excited about talking to Mike Smith after we hired him and having a nice conversation with him,” Licht said. “He believes that you can’t be really system-specific with your players, and you have to scheme around your players’ skills. You hear that a lot but it doesn’t happen a lot of times. But with him, that’s one of his core beliefs, so that’s exciting for a general manager and a scouting department to hear in terms of who we select and who we sign. If he’s a good football player then he’s a good football player.”
Licht also mentioned that Smith believes Verner deserves a second chance. Verner, who started at cornerback in 2014 after a Pro Bowl season with the Titans in 2013, was demoted to the role of nickel cornerback in 2015 by Tampa Bay’s former head coach. The key to Verner’s play turning around, according to Licht, might be a familiar face.
“Even Alterraun, Brett Maxie coached him at Tennessee when he was a Pro Bowler, so maybe he can bring the best out of him.”
Verner was thought to be a possible salary cap casualty in 2016 as his salary climbs from $4.25 million to $6.75 million, but the Bucs seem intent on giving the 27-year old cornerback this offseason and training camp to prove that he deserves a roster spot and his salary. Verner, who had 56 tackles, four pass breakups, one interception and a forced fumble last year, said he wants to remain a Buccaneer.
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Getty Images
“Hopefully I am back,” Verner said. “We’re building something special here. Hopefully I am part of that, but we all know at the end of the day, it’s a business. The NFL is a business. And there are going to be no hard feelings at the end of the day. They want to get the roster the best they can to try to compete and get to the Super Bowl.
“I’m not putting any blame or any excuses on anything other than myself. I come in to work. I work hard, and the result didn’t happen. So I blame myself. But there’s not anything I regret with what happened, because I know I worked as hard as I could, given the things I had. And things didn’t work out. So it’s a life lesson.”
A new defensive coordinator and new secondary coaches in Jon Hoke and Maxie may mean things work out for Banks and Verner in Tampa Bay after all.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
This says a TON about Lovie and the players on this team. Licht knows talent, and 2016 will be an indictment of Lovie if the new Coach Smith has these guys playing well. Also, it says a lot about Coach Koetter, he saw these guys every day in practice, and must feel they are good players. It might have a good effect on the locker room as well, giving guys 2nd chances.
Verner, and Banks might not be the best corners in the NFL, but I don’t believe they were as bad as Lovies scheme, and secondary coaches. When Lovie told Licht, and the Glazers at the end of the year he didn’t have the right players for his secondary, and both players needed replacing the writing was on the wall. Fire or Lovie, or replace the secondary. How can you not coach up a second rounder, and former pro bowler?
One thing thing that glared out for me on this team was lack of a DE past rush with a player with size who could also stop the end and off tackle runs. I think we also need a beast at DT too. Banks and Verner weren’t being used properly. The DB Coaches were terrible; worst I have seen since the Bucs were created. Go Bucs!
I believe Sterling Moore might be more effective under Smith as well as MacDougald. This offseason will be interesting on the defensive side of the ball. So many times we were out of position last year, which falls on the coaches as well as the players.
Truth, Surfer. Many have already written about how the problems with the secondary were a key factor in Lovie’s firing, and the staff’s work looks uglier and uglier the more you think about it. Sure, GMs whiff on draft picks, and sure, even pro-bowlers can fail to replicate earlier success, but there is just no way our DBs should have been this bad. Lovie threw more coaches at this unit than any other, it was the healthiest, had the most depth, and good talent, and yet somehow it was a constant nightmare.
I’ve been seeing Jalen Ramsey mocked to the Bucs and at first I was like, “there is no way we pass on a DE.” But I’m looking at the depth for those positions in the draft and I see a huge drop off after Ramsey/Hargreaves III and not as much of a gap between, say, Ogbah and Calhoun or Nassib. I think in a creative defensive system, Ramsey can be monstrous. And I actually like Calhoun’s quickness more than Ogbah’s physical strength. Shades of Simeon Rice, I think.
This says a lot about the new coaching staff and now I am very optimistic about the defensive improvement next year.
Great coaches like Shula were great because they changed their scheme based on the strengths of the players. Example running with Csonka, Kick and Morris and then passing when he had Marino.
I think both these players and all the other defensive players currently on our roster will be much improved with Mike Smith and the new staff. Now let’s go draft the best available players and coach them up.
Will see what happens, but both are at least decent starters I bet with capable coaches. Just more proof of how Lovie screwed up this team and defense. This team is not as devoid of talent as people cry about. I never bought that. Yea some guys that Lovie brought in were hopeless, but the whole secondary isn’t garbage. Pass rush needs to get better too and will help. I blame Lovie for his free agent crap for pass rush too.
Articles like this give me so much hope for the new coaching staff and the future. Keeping these two guys around really opens up the draft flexibility. I’d lean towards both ending up being solid starters next year and Banks earning a sizable extension
These guys do deserve a second chance as Lovie and his ragtag group of secondary coaches were terrible. I’m not sure if anyone else saw this but at the senior bowl Licht took a wonderful shot at Lovie and just echos what most of us thought about Lovie and his stubborn ways.
“[Mike Smith] is more of a, which is a great thing for a scout and for the GM, is that he’s more about fitting the pieces into a scheme, utilizing the players as what their best attributes are,” Licht said. “And fitting the scheme around them, as opposed to trying to find the, you know, schematic fit [while scouting]. And that’s music to my ears. It’s a lot easier to do that. And you know, the intelligent coaches can do that. So that’s going to be a good thing for us.”
I believe this is tremendous news and paints a picture of what the Bucs want to get done in the off season. First, I think this tells me that they’re going to be aggressive in pursuing DL help. I think they want bigger and faster pass rushers. Second, keeping Banks and Verner and rehabilitating them opens up the draft to truly get the BPA. DT, DE, WR, OL, literally any great player can be had and that’s a great situation. The Bucs are ascending fast and will challenge Panthers sooner than people think under the leadership and guidance of Koetter/Licht.
I’m glad the Bucs are retaining Verner and Banks. Hopefully Moore too. In the draft the Bucs need to take BPA. Don’t lock in on a DE just because we don’t have a pro bowler there.
I don’t care who stays or goes as long as Jenkins goes.
Sceme or no scheme, when he said the team just had lack of concentration on the Redskins winning drive last year, I wanted to scream.
I never quite understood how a promising CB like Banks (albeit legs too skinny according to Pink)and a young Pro Bowl CB like Verner were cast aside for the likes of Moore, Barimah and even Jenkins and the departed Jennings. Seems to me that the trio of secondary coaches in Byrd, Marmie and Smith Jr. had two years to figure out who deserved to play and never did know how to find a way out of their own maze. I suspect, Banks and Verner may have been relegated to bench duty for questioning the dubious directions from the incompetent triumvirate. Maybe they were caught rolling their eyes and mumbling under their breath, “You want me to do what……….let them keep catching the slant and hope that the receiver falls down or, as Andy Griffith might say, steps in something, on the way to the end zone?”
For you youngsters, the Andy Griffith quote is from the comedy recording “What it Was Was Football”. Be advised their is no use of the F-word so you might not find it as humorous as today’s F-bomb laced tirades.
Howdy! Remember that one oh his show.
Scubog, I am 24, so I must speak up for us young people. Do I think Andy Griffith was funny? Yes. Do I think as a society that we swear much too often? Yes, but to say that comedy now days is dirtier than in previous times. I don’t know if I agree with that. Many comedians including Richard Pryor, Redd Foxx, and George Carlin were known for swearing. Bill Cosby was famous for doing standup without curse words, but see where he is now. I understand your general point. But sometimes the F-word is needed to really put that exclamation on a joke. And you may not agree with me, but I at least had to speak up for us millennials. Anyways we don’t have to agree on comedy, as long as we agree on our love for the Bucs.
Agreed Entre about early comedians. My wife and I recently went to see Louis Black and he used the F-word so often it became f-ing ridiculous. Every other word was a bit much.
Good looking out Entre! But I gotta tell you that I got socks that are older than you! lol.
I agree that Verner and Banks were not the issue. They just weren’t use properly. Rather than revamping all the DBs, maybe a look at making the defensive scheme effective by the talent that we have.
I like to hear that Mike Smith will be more flexible in fitting scheme to personnel, and I think that Banks and Verner are worth having on the team for the money they are making. I also think Sterling Moore is probably the best man to man guy we have on the team and the rookie Aberijiea or however you spell it is a fighter. The problem I have is that I believe many Bucs fans are giving Mike Smith a pass. Scott Reynolds loves to say that one of the reasons Lovie was fired was because the defense (the side of the ball that Lovie made his reputation on) regressed. The problem I have is that the same thing happened to Mike Smith. He was a great DC in Jacksonville, but then he became the head coach of Atlanta, and the falcons defense was never good. As fans, if we hold the bad defense against Lovie as a head coach, then why are we not doing the same with Mike Smith. I am optimistic that Mike Smith will turn the defense around, but I am not as sure as many fans seem to be that change equals improvement. With that said, we can’t be much worse than we were with Lovie.
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