Starting Buccaneers cornerback Johnthan Banks is back to being a full participant at practice and his services in the secondary could come in handy.
Opposing quarterbacks have posted a combined 106.4 passer rating against Tampa Bay this season. That’s the fourth-worst ranking in the NFL and lumps the Bucs in with some other not-so-successful 2015 teams. Of the defenses surrendering the 10 highest passer ratings, only the Pittsburgh Steelers (10th) have a winning record. The group’s combined record: 18-40.
Coaches and teammates are hopeful that Banks’ return after missing two-plus games with a knee injury will help stabilize the secondary, but it’s still not certain if that day will come in Washington or Atlanta.
“It would be a boon for us,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of Banks suiting back up. “He’s a good player, one of our guys we really kind of count on and not having him really hurt our depth. So to get him back would really help our team. They run some three- and four-wide at times so it would help to have him back for sure.”
One teammate looking forward to Banks’ return is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy. He spoke Thursday about Banks’ overall impact and his steady development into a lockdown cornerback.
“You know Banks; he’s starting to become one of those guy,” McCoy said. “You can put him on anybody and you know he’s going to handle his business. He’s starting to be more consistent with it. It’s huge to have him back. We missed him and we can’t wait to get him back out there. He had a big game against these guys last year, so his eyes are real big waiting to get back there.”
Banks scored his first and only NFL touchdown during last year’s Week 11 win at Washington when he picked off Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and returned it 19 yards. That interception was the third of four Banks would register in 2014, but the team as a whole has struggled to jump quarterbacks’ pass attempts this season.
“I feel like we’ve got some good players back there – some good corners, some good safeties,” Banks said of the secondary. “We’ve just got to get it together and we’re going to get it this week. I hope we come out and ball, make some plays, get a few picks.”
As for whether or not he’ll be part of that effort at FedEx Field has yet to be determined, but Banks said Wednesday he feels good to go – maybe great, even.
“I feel pretty good,” said the third-year pro when asked about his knee. That status elevated seconds later in response to a question on his availability in Washington. “Oh, I feel great. I’m here, I’m alive, I’m blessed, my kid’s doing good, my wife’s doing good, you can’t ask for any more than that. Life is good.”
Frazier sounded optimistic that Banks would be in the defensive game plan but, predictably, left the door open that he may get another week off before coming back.
“There’s a good chance,” defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said of Banks playing or starting. “We’ll have to see how things go the rest of this week. Even though he’s cleared medically, can he still do all the things he was doing before the injury? We have to determine that. We’re hoping he’ll have a good day today and put together another good day tomorrow.”
Whatever the decision, there’s no question where Banks stands on the matter.
“I’ve been really disappointed,” Banks said. “I absolutely hate to miss games, practice, anything like that. It’s been frustrating. I talk to Coach [Gill] Byrd all the time about it. Before games I’m almost in there about to cry because I want to be out there so bad. But God’s got his way of working and God’s got his plan and I can only control what I can control. That’s my attitude and my effort.”