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Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds answers your questions from the @PewterReport Twitter account each week in the Bucs Monday Mailbag Submit your question to the Bucs Monday Mailbag each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag. Here are the questions we chose to answer for this week’s edition.
QUESTION: Why was Carlton Davis III on special teams when he got hurt?
ANSWER: The Bucs lost cornerback Carlton Davis III to a severe injury in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win at New England on Sunday night. Davis suffered the quadriceps injury when he was running down as a vice player on the punt return team at New England. While Davis does play on some special teams when healthy, he was actually on defense when he got hurt on Sunday night. Please allow me to explain.
The Patriots kept their offense on the field on fourth-and-2 at the Tampa Bay 44-yard line with two minutes left, leading 7-6. New England then decided to punt after the two-minute warning, but fearing a fake punt, Tampa Bay kept its defense on the field. The Patriots took a delay of game penalty and punted the ball, but the Bucs defense was still on the field just in case there was a fake on fourth-and-7 from the Tampa Bay 49.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: USA Today
Davis injured his quad on the play running down the field, but it wasn’t the Bucs being careless with playing him on special teams. He was actually on the field with the defensive unit on that play. And his injury could have happened on any play during the game while he was covering a receiver on defense. Davis, who was helped off the field and carted to the locker room, will be out at least a couple of weeks. The team hopes it is not a season-ending rupture of the quadriceps muscle. They’ll know more when test results come back on Monday. Davis is in a contract year and was playing well to start the season prior to his injury.
Unbelievably, Tampa Bay has now lost all three of its starting cornerbacks due to early season injuries. In my 26-year career covering the Bucs, I’ve never seen anything like this before where one position is just decimated with injuries. The closest would be the receiver position at the end of the 2019 season when Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Scotty Miller all suffered season-ending hamstring injuries down the stretch.
QUESTION: Wow, the cornerback situation is crazy. Wanted more info on Dee Delaney. Can he play inside or just outside? Who is a good former Bucs comp? E.J. Biggers? Myron Lewis? Jonathan Banks? Aqib Talib?
ANSWER: That’s not exactly a great list of comparisons. E.J. Biggers, Myron Lewis and Jonthan Banks didn’t really pan out as NFL players. Yet Aqib Talib, a five-time Pro Bowler, wound up playing 12 years in the league. Lewis, a Bucs’ third-round pick in 2010, was a bust. Biggers, who was Tampa Bay’s seventh-round pick in 2009, had a slightly better career. The same could be said for Banks, a Bucs’ second-round selection in 2013, who had great size at 6-foot-2, but just couldn’t run.
Bucs CB Dee Delaney – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
At 5-foot-11, 200 pounds, Delaney isn’t nearly as big as those cornerbacks you mentioned. Banks and Lewis are both 6-foot-2, Talib is 6-foot-1, and Biggers is 6-foot. Delaney, an undrafted free agent cornerback out of Citadel and Miami, is on his fifth team since 2018. He had a solid training camp and made some plays in the preseason, picking off a pair of passes in Houston to help solidify his spot on the 53-man roster.
But the reality is that Delaney, who is mostly an outside cornerback, isn’t special. I’d liken his game to that of Biggers’ style of play out of the cornerback comparisons you mentioned. Biggers was slightly faster, running a 4.38 coming out of Western Michigan, while Delaney ran a 4.46 prior to the draft.
Delaney may not be the best option to play a bunch on defense due to his lack of NFL experience, but quite frankly the Bucs may not have a choice. They are running out of options at cornerback with losing Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Carlton Davis III due to injuries in the first four weeks of the season.
QUESTION: Scott, you used to be a defensive coordinator. What would you do about our injury bug at cornerback?
ANSWER: Ha! I’m not sure my days as a Pop Warner defensive coordinator for the South Pasco Predators will help me answer this question. When Jason Pierre-Paul returns from his shoulder injury maybe try him at cornerback? He’s long, rangy and actually had two interceptions last year while dropping into coverage.
I’m just kidding, of course.
But the Bucs are entering some desperate times at the cornerback position entering Week 5 due to Carlton Davis III’s quadriceps injury. Desperate times can call for some desperate measures. Quite frankly I’m not sure there is much more than general manager Jason Licht, head coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles can do about the cornerback position at this point.
Bucs CB Richard Sherman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Tampa Bay has already signed three cornerbacks since the start of the season, Pierre Desir, Rashard Robinson and Richard Sherman. That brings the total number of cornerbacks on the roster up to seven. That’s not counting Sean Murphy-Bunting, who was placed on injured reserve, but he’ll eligible to return later this season.
Desir, Robinson and Sherman all played in Tampa Bay’s 19-17 win at New England on Sunday night with Sherman starting despite just three days of practice. A lot depends on how serious Davis’ injury is, and how close both Jamel Dean and Murphy-Bunting are to returning. If the Bucs put Davis on injured reserve Licht will be forced to sign yet another cornerback.
I’ve been told that trading for New England All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore is not being considered for a myriad of reasons. First, he started the season on injured reserve with a quad injury of his own and isn’t eligible to return until Week 7. Second, he is 30 years old and wants a huge contract extension. Third, the Bucs don’t have the cap room now to absorb his salary in a trade, nor could it afford two high-priced cornerbacks in the future. Davis is in a contract year and Tampa Bay wants to re-sign him in 2022. He’s the priority.
The best thing the Bucs can do is ride out this current injury situation and get Sherman, Desir, Robinson and Dee Delaney as comfortable in Todd Bowles’ scheme as possible. That, combined with some prayers for their ailing starting cornerbacks and the continued emergence of the pass rush is about all Tampa Bay can do right now. Maybe explore a trade elsewhere around the league but not for a high-priced veteran that the Bucs can’t afford right now.
QUESTION: Am I crazy or was the Bucs’ 19-17 win over New England the evil twin of the Patriots’ 19-14 on October 5, 2017 win over Tampa Bay? The better team almost loses an away game, but somehow pulls it out because winners find a way to win.
ANSWER: There are a lot of similarities in those two games. New England prevailed on a Thursday night game in Tampa Bay in 2017 as Bucs kicker Nick Folk missed all three of his field goal attempts in the loss. General manager Jason Licht would cut Folk, who missed two field goals and an extra point the previous week in a narrow win over the Giants, the next day.
Former Bucs kicker Nick Folk – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
This year, it was Folk missing a 56-yard field goal – this time for the Patriots. That kick would have won the game for New England. Folk’s long kick into the wind and rain doinked off the left upright, snapping a streak of 36 consecutive field goals for the veteran kicker.
Both games featured solid, credible defensive performances and offenses that bogged down in the red zone. The difference, aside from Tom Brady playing for the Bucs rather than the Patriots, was that Tampa Bay would stumble to a disappointing 5-11 finish in Dirk Koetter’s second season in 2017. Meanwhile, Tom Brady and New England would finish 13-3 before losing Super Bowl LII to the Philadelphia Eagles.
I’m sure Tampa Bay, which is off to a 3-1 start, would take a 13-win season right now, especially with all the injuries piling up in the secondary. Yet Brady and the Bucs would certainly like to entertain a different outcome in the Super Bowl – should they be able to make it back to defend their title. Getting back to the Super Bowl this year will prove to be a quite challenge with all of the banged up Buccaneers.
QUESTION: When are you comfortable saying that Vita Vea has been Jason Licht’s best draft pick in Tampa Bay?
ANSWER: I’m definitely not ready to say that nose tackle Vita Vea is the best draft pick Bucs general manager Jason Licht has ever made. I like Vea’s game as much as anybody. Pewter Report was the first to mock Vea to the Bucs back in 2018. He’s been an absolute force when healthy. Although I agree with head coach Bruce Arians in that I too would like to see Vea finish more, especially as a pass rusher.
I understand that Vea’s job is oftentimes the set-up man. He pushes the pocket and creates havoc up front that allows the outside linebackers to feast on the quarterback. Such was the case with Joe Tryon-Shoyinka’s second sack against the Patriots. It looked like the Bucs ran a T-E (tackle-end) stunt up front where Vea demolished two Patriots linemen and allowed the rookie to loop back inside for a clean shot on New England quarterback Mac Jones. If that wasn’t the case, it was a heck of an instinctive play from Tryon-Shoyinka.
Vea also played a huge role in helping Tampa Bay’s defense set a new team record on Sunday night. Although the Patriots only tried to run the ball eight times against Bucs, which have had the league’s top-ranked run defense the last two years, New England was stopped for minus-1 yard. That beat the previous single game franchise record of allowing just two yards rushing to Miami in 2013.
Licht’s best draft pick has undoubtedly been wide receiver Mike Evans. With three Pro Bowls and an NFL-record seven straight 1,000-yard seasons, Evans has future Hall of Fame credentials. Licht’s best pick was his first one – Evans with the seventh overall selection in 2014.