Change is nothing new to Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah. Since relocating from his birth country of Italy to Columbus, Ohio as a child, he’s experienced his fair share. Maybe that’s why he’s handled himself so well over the past year and a half. Over that time span, Adjei-Barimah’s gone from an undrafted free agent out of Bowling Green in 2015 to an early season potential starter in 2016. Filling in the gaps of that stretch was getting signed by the Bucs right before training camp last year, landing on the practice squad, getting promoted a day before Week 4 against Carolina and unseating starters Mike Jenkins and Johnthan Banks at right cornerback.
In seven starts and 13 total games played, Adjei-Barimah finished with 41 tackles and one pass defensed while rising from unknown training camp invitee to one of Tampa Bay’s top options at the position. The latest change affecting the 24-year-old was initiated by a combination of factors that included a new coaching regime and the free agent acquisition of Brent Grimes. The Bucs are working Adjei-Barimah inside at nickelback, giving Grimes and veteran Alterraun Verner inside tracks to win jobs on the outside. For the player, it doesn’t much matter where he lines up on game day and he’s not unfamiliar with the new role. “It’s something personally I’ve always done, even in college,” Adjei-Barimah told PewterReport.com after practice Tuesday. “So I’ve never been opposed to it, I’ve always embraced it and I’m embracing it now. I love being able to play inside and outside. I feel like it gives me a lot of versatility, as well as my role on special teams. I feel like that’s very important. I’m just embracing it all. I’m trying to make myself available for the team and whatever it takes to win, I’m down.” Adjei-Barimah’s name is listed behind Grimes’ on the Bucs’ first depth chart, though it is representative of Tampa Bay’s 4-3 base defense with only four defensive backs. The second-year pro has been trading first-team reps with first-round draft pick Vernon Hargreaves III during camp but does hold a slight experience edge entering the season. Head coach Dirk Koetter addressed the current battle at nickel last week and noted that both players are being moved around the field. “Vernon is working at both nickel with the first group and he’s playing corner, but because he’s playing two spots they’re trying not to crush him on reps,” Koetter said. “At the same time, as I said the other day, Jude is doing a good job and we need to get Jude some work both at nickel and at corner. As far as number of reps, the coaches control all that, we looked at everybody’s reps through the first five practices and we’re about we’re about where we should be.” Players from both teams are flying around more when playing inside and it requires more physical play, Adjei-Barimah said, and it’s a challenge he enjoys taking on. “When you’re inside there are a lot more nuances to the defense and a lot more things you have to know, such as you may be needed more in run support than you are usually on the outside. It’s about being able to know the whole defense throughout. Something I pride myself on is learning the entire defense and knowing what everybody has to do so that anywhere I’m plugged in at I’m going to be able to get the job done.” Hargreaves responded similarly when asked last week about the transition to nickel. “Just new techniques,” he said. “There are new techniques playing the nickel position that are a little bit different than corner, little bit more responsibility. You’ve got run fits that you’ve got to know, things of that nature. But at the end of the day it’s football and if you can make plays you’ll be all right.” There are still 32 days, seven training camp practices and four preseason games to go until the Bucs kickoff the 2016 campaign against the NFC South rival Falcons in Atlanta, and this week’s depth chart is the roughest of rough drafts. An additional bit of information to glean from the defense’s early looks, too, is that Banks has work to do to get him back in the fold. “As far as the corners go, I think right now we have four guys kind of out in front right now, in no particular order: Grimes and Verner and Hargeaves and Jude,” Koetter said last Friday. “And then we’ve got Banks and Josh Robinson kind of battling for five and six. That’s sort of where we’re at right now.”