The Buccaneers added a new player to their defensive unit Wednesday afternoon, picking up former Chicago Bears cornerback Isaiah Frey, 24. Bucs head coach Lovie Smith drafted Frey out of Nevada in the sixth round of 2012’s NFL Draft while still leading the Bears.
The timing of the transaction comes as the secondary is dealing with multiple injuries, most notably cornerback Johnthan Banks, who missed last week with a neck injury. However the signing could’ve had less to do with injuries and more about the lack of production and overall doubt regarding the current nickelback situation.
“Leonard [Johnson] will tell you he needs to improve his play,” Smith said after practice Wednesday.
Earlier in the day, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier also took the podium and expressed his concern regarding the nickel position.
“We want to get more from our nickel player,” Frazier said. “That position in today’s NFL, you’re like a starter. Some of the teams run three and four wide receivers on you so [the nickel] plays a lot of snaps.”
The entire secondary was underwhelming throughout Sunday’s debacle against Baltimore. But with Brandon Dixon and Crezdon Butler’s youth and inexperience, most of the criticism was directed at Johnson at nickel corner. The third-year pro from Iowa St. has visibly struggled this season while playing the acclaimed roll in a Tampa 2 defense. Frazier spoke honestly about Johnson’s performance and the team’s expectations from him.
“We need to get more from Leonard at that position,” Frazier said. “He was in a position on Sunday on a third-down situation to make a play, and he didn’t make that play. We have to make some of those plays. He’s going to have more opportunities and hopefully he’ll make more of those plays. This is a week for him to get better as well. We’ll go through some of the things that we did five or six weeks ago and try to get him better at some of those things. We need more.”
“If you’re not playing at a certain level you look for options, and that’s what we did,” Smith said. “Leonard is still going to be a part of what we’re going to do. But we need to continue to bring in players to give him competition.”
Enter Isaiah Frey.
Frazier was less blunt than Lovie Smith on the topic, as the defensive coordinator suggested they are working on getting Johnson more opportunities. However, even he confirmed that Frey was brought in to work primarily at the nickel spot.
“He’s been primarily a nickel in the past and we’re going to look at him from the nickelback position primarily, Frazier said. “He’ll get some work at corner, but he’ll spend most of his time at nickel.”
While the secondary has consistently been gashed by opposing quarterbacks this season, the signing of a former late-round pick could prove to be an extraneous solution. It’s no secret that Leonard Johnson has not played up to par, and maybe Frey, a player whom Lovie Smith drafted, will get his first real opportunity in replacement.
For what it’s worth, draft analyst Bucky Brooks once thought highly of the former Wolf Pack star.
“Frey gives the Bears an athletic corner with athleticism and quickness,” Brooks said after the 2012 NFL Draft. “He’s ideally suited to play in a two-deep scheme and will have a chance to make the roster as a sub defender.”
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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The more the merrier, throw it up against the wall and see if it sticks. I think the law of averages says that if we run 200 players through here this year (we are well on the way!), that there could be one or two good ones.
Never liked L. Johnson as a nickel CB. Unless you’re as smart as R. Barber you can’t be slow and play nickel CB. All the success I’ve seen L. Johnson have it came when he was playing in a flat zone on the outside. He’s very good at that. I was very surprised this summer when Lovie and Frasier evaluated him and put him inside.
Ok! One more added to the “frey”. Oops, pardon me, I made a pun! (now come on! nobody expects for me to take this news seriously)
Well then…problem solved.
The nickel CB is least of this teams problems. Now all we have to do is find a pass rush, special teams, offensive line, etcetera.
Six CB’s on the roster and half were not with the team in the all important Training Camp. Plus the two CB’s on the Practice Squad were not with us in the summer. Again, Licht is trying to cover for previous evaluation errors. Why bring in a new nickleback to play the same “obsolete” scheme? Yes, I’m being sarcastic.
No pun on the article but for the GM, “Thank you we’re going to be 11-5 NOW!!!
Dallas is using the scheme, and they’re winning, same with the Seahawks. This is what I think is part of the problem. Training in the Florida heat. Hear me out. Heat intex at training camp is 110 degrees everyday. Who could concentrate on learning anything when your brain is being baked? This notion that training in the heat conditions you to it is nonsense. Look at our home record. Some advantage uh. Northeast team Ravens didn’t seem to mind it, and frozen tundra G.B. was fresh enough to beat Miami in the 4th quarter when you’d expect they’d be folding. Ask yourself, would you rather cut your lawn when it’s 110, with 90% humidity, or 75 with no humidity? For the players to be able to concentrate on learning, and playing, and not wearing down their bodies the Bucs should build a practice bubble. I think our players are more worn down to start the season training in such harsh conditions. Teams from the cold have proved they can come down here, and deal with the heat for three hours. Our players are already burnt out. The slow starts, everybody in the south moves slow, it’s the heat. Practices in this intense heat, is more about survival then learning. I think if we keep our players freah by keeping them indoors till November you’ll see a better team to start the season.
Surferdudes, I like the fresh take on solving the issues with this team. Here’s another one, why not wear our home uniforms you know, at home. Playing in the whitey tighties is supposed to repel some heat (which it does a little) but that has had little effect on our home-loss record. Perhaps the moral boost of playing in home uniforms would offset the extra heat we took in on game day. Besides, over the past few years our opponents have been holding boards over their players sitting on the bench to provide shade in September at Ray Jay. Perhaps we could start doing that early in the season.
Bucs always practiced outdoors but now ithe heat is why they suck? Also dallas is not playing much zone or cover 2 that i see, they are playing lot of man coverage and they are getting pressure on QB with 4 guys. You know what the difference is with the Seahawks? They actually have a pass rush and zone schemes can work.
Fredster, we’re playing about the same about of man coverage as Dallas. It’s the Tampa 2, not the Cover 2. All it means is you start every play with both safeties on top before the snap, unless you’re blitzing a safety. You can play man underneath, zone underneath or whatever you want after that. Dallas played more man underneath than usual against the Seahawks, but that’s not how they play every week. We mix it up just as much. We played a lot of man underneath against the Saints. We also sometimes shift to Cover 1 after the snap where there isn’t much safety help over the top. We did that a lot against the Saints also. The play where Verner dropped an INT and late in the game got an INT? Both were in man coverage, probably Cover 1.
Pinkstob I’m aware of the difference between cover 2 and tampa 2 and I’ve seen dallas playing both this year. I’ve seen LB dropping back in coverage and I’ve seen where they don’t. I have not watched every game I’m not a dallas fan but I saw little to anything but man coverage in Seattle. Anyways my point was zones of any kind don’t work without pressure on QB. All the teams that run cover two or tampa two can get after the QB. As you said sometimes man coverage won’t either if you can’t get it the QB. Plus our secondary is just terrible at just about everything. Also the games ive watched dallas zone coverage didn’t work very well.
If any of you guys actually listened to people that played the Tampa 2, you’d hear them say it’s a defense that takes a while to master. If you listened to those people, then actually listened to what they said, you wouldn’t panic as if ebola was found in St Pete.
For the past 6 games we’ve been playing the cover no one, the man to out-manned, the zoned out, the cover two in deep spit, play only one quarter and the I got him, no you take him coverages. So OK the Tampa 2 is a “defense” not a “coverage” with two deep safety coverage with Mike dropping into the deep middle. Soooooooo, what makes the rest of the Tampa 2 so different and now dried up and wrinkled?
Scubog all great points I agree. Like I said this secondary and defense overall is terrible at everything. Don’t know why. No pass rush only part of problem they can’t play man, they can’t break up passes, they can’t intercept passes. Obviously some of this has to fall on Lovie too not putting them in good positions at times.
As far as you question what makes Tampa 2 old and wrinkled? Don’t know, but to me it seems Lots of things have changed since the 90’s. teams are going three WR sets like over 50% of time now. You know of course the LB has strict coverage duty for slot WR. This is a nightmare match up problem that just wasn’t as big a concern in the day. I just don’t see Mason Foster or anyone else in Bucs line up able to cover anyone in middle of field. So if the LB HAS to do these two things how is it ever going to work? Also I think all the damn rule changes favoring the offense has made it damn near impossible unless you have just a total elite front 7 like seahawks or panthers. I also don’t ever remember so many elite QB’s at one time playing the game. I guess in lovies mind he will primarily play Tampa 2 even though none of our LB’s can cover until he gets the right pieces. In the mean time if we are blown out 50 points a game that’s fine. Yea he throws couple wrinkles of other coverages here and there and that doesn’t work either because this team is just terrible and the pass rush is non existent and everyone says see it’s not the type of defense or “scheme” that’s the problem. Don’t know the numbers but seems high percent of snaps we are playing Tampa 2 and safeties way back and LB leaving middle wide open. I also don’t know the number of snaps that Dallas plays it but it seems much less than Bucs. Marinelli seems to be doing a better job of mixing it up and calling the right defense at the right time. He also seems to have Dallas playing sound defense in general. Staying in gaps, trusting each other, tackling well, secondary in right position, list goes on. So I see your point. Tampa 2 might still work if you have the correct pieces which we don’t, but even if you do use it Id be surprised it worked unless it was used much less throughout a game than the Bucs use it.
Eventually the entire defense will understand the scheme, assuming Lovie keeps adding players from his old team.
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