FAB 3. Bucs Young CBs Pounded By “The Rock”

I begin my discussion with Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerbacks coach Kevin Ross with a statement. There are a combined two career interceptions among the seven cornerbacks on the Bucs’ 90-man training camp roster.

“That won’t happen again,” Ross said. “I don’t think that will ever happen again on this team. They’ll get their hands on plenty of balls. They have a lot to work and they are learning how to work together. They’ll be okay.”

Okay, I’m sold. I believe Ross.

Do you know why? Because the guy can coach.

And man, could Ross play.

Growing up in Kansas City I was a huge fan of Ross when I followed the Chiefs. So much so that my old PIN number for my Capitol Federal debit card was 5831 for my two favorite Chiefs players back in the 1990s – Derrick Thomas, who wore 58, and Ross, who wore 31.

Despite standing 5-foot-9 and weighing 185 pounds, the compactly built Ross was tough as nails and one of the most physical cornerbacks to ever play in the NFL. Growing up on the mean streets of Camden, New Jersey before going to Temple University where he played for Bruce Arians, Ross earned the nickname “The Rock” a decade before wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson did.

Kansas City drafted Ross in the seventh round of the 1984 draft and he became an immediate starter, recording six interceptions and a pick-six as a rookie. He would go on post 38 career interceptions, including 30 in Kansas City, including pick-sixes of 99 and 71 yards, to go along 15 fumble recoveries, including one for a touchdown, six forced fumbles and five sacks. Ross, a two-time Pro Bowler, was credited with 1,099 tackles in his 14-year NFL career, including 827 during his 11 years with the Chiefs.

If you watched his Chiefs highlight tape that I embedded into this section of the SR’s Fab 5, Ross might remind you of Ronde Barber – but not as many sacks or touchdowns. He was that caliber of cornerback with the Chiefs, and was coached by two of the greatest defensive backs coaches of all-time – Tony Dungy from 1989-91 and then Herman Edwards from 1992-95 – in Kansas City.

Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross
Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross – Photo by: Getty Images

“Teachers,” Ross said of Dungy and Edwards, both of whom went on to coach in Tampa Bay together in 1996. “They were real good teachers. That’s what I’m trying to convey to these young guys – I’m teaching them. I like where they’re at right now, but we’ve got a long way to go.

“Coach Dungy was a great anticipator in terms of what teams would try to do to you. He would make you learn yourself – your weaknesses first and then go from there. Herm Edwards was a technician. He just wanted you to be fundamentally sound and let your fundamentals take over the game.”

Do you know who else was in Kansas City when Dungy was on Marty Schottenheimer’s staff serving under defensive coordinator Bill Cowher?

Arians.

He was the Chiefs running backs coach from 1989-92 and coached 1989 NFL leader rusher Christian Okoye, Barry Word and third-down back Todd McNair, who is now Tampa Bay’s running backs coach. McNair also played for Arians at Temple and was drafted by the Chiefs in the eighth round in 1989.

Small world, huh?

“Kevin is one of the most ferocious, competitive people I know,” Arians said. “That was his locker room in Kansas City and everybody knew it. He was a tough as they come. He was a linebacker playing cornerback. He’s outstanding as a coach and he was coached by some really great people. He just continues to grow and grow as a teacher. He’s doing an outstanding job with these young guys.”

Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross and DB M.J. Stewart
Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross and DB M.J. Stewart – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Young is an understatement. Tampa Bay will field the NFL’s youngest secondary with the league’s youngest group of cornerbacks – by a mile – this year.

The confident Ross isn’t fazed by that all.

“No, I love it,” Ross said. “I get to teach football to young people. I’m watching as they are learning and experiencing things and grasping the concepts. They’re doing pretty good so far. It’s good that way. You would like one veteran in there to show them to how work, but we’re learning how to work and how to practice so you can play in a game and it carries over.”

At age 24, Vernon Hargreaves III is the elder statesman of the cornerbacks room. He’s the most veteran cornerback despite playing just 26 games, including only nine starts over the last two injury-plagued years. Hargreaves will start opposite Carlton Davis, a second-round pick from a year ago.

Sean Murphy-Bunting, this year’s second-round pick, is a rookie, as is third-rounder Jamel Dean. Those four young cornerbacks hold the top four spots on the depth chart.

“You actually saw him play in Kansas City?” Hargreaves said when I disclosed that I’m 47 and used to go to Chiefs games in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Man, I’m jealous! He coaches us how he played, and for you that makes sense because you watched him in Kansas City. He’s been there and he’s done that in the league. He gets guys going and he’s not telling you anything he hasn’t done himself. As young guys we can relate to that and we love that.”

Murphy-Bunting said that one of the first things Ross told he and Dean upon being drafted in April was to be ready to play as rookies.

Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“Coach Ross is definitely a critical guy and he holds you to the highest standard possible,” Murphy-Bunting said. “He doesn’t want anything less than perfection, honestly. He’s big on technique and reading your keys, but also having fun and playing fast. We’re learning the game step by step and not throwing everything at us at once. He’s a great mentor because he’s played in the league for 14 years.

“I saw some of his old film when I first got here,” Murphy-Bunting said. “Our running backs coach played with him and showed me. He was knocking guys heads off. He was knocking guys’ heads off and getting interceptions. He was a playmaker. He was known as ‘The Rock.’ Now he’s ‘Uncle Rock’ to us.”

Davis couldn’t agree more about Ross.

“We do call him ‘Uncle Rock,’” Davis said. “It’s awesome to know that you have a coach that has played the game and played it at a high level. It makes you really trust even more what he’s saying. He’s leveled me up in all ways from the physical standpoint to a mental standpoint. He’s the ideal cornerbacks coach. I feel like any cornerback could learn and benefit from him.”

Arians, who hired Ross in Arizona in 2013, believes he has the best cornerbacks coach in the league on his Tampa Bay staff.

“When I learned he was available he was the guy,” Arians said. “There was nobody else I wanted. Our young guys may not have had a lot of interceptions before, but they have a bunch now [in training camp] and they’re going to have a bunch this year. They all have great ball skills. When you are in Kevin’s room you are going to play hard and you are going to attack.”

Bucs CBs coach Kevin Ross – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Now 57 years old, Ross coaches like he played – with toughness, aggressiveness and emphasizing great technique.

“’Uncle Rock,’ huh? I don’t care what they call me as long as they play well,” Ross said.

And they will.

There will be some growing pains for this young group of Bucs cornerbacks, but thanks to Ross there will plenty of interceptions and big plays along the way, too.

There is nobody better for the job.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 spent six years 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]
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nitey

Really enjoyed this Fab5 Scott. Best part was reading about coach Ross and how he’s working with the young secondary. I plan on watching the back 7 real hard on tonight’s game because we played so soft last year.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

QB Jameis Winston
QB Blaine Gabbert
A duo for the ages

Right up there with
QB Joe Montana
QB Steve Young

Good new Bucs fan no team could look worse than AZ did last night

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surferdudes

I hope they can find two better O lineman then E. Smith, and Benenoch. If those are our best back ups, we’re in trouble. I’ve never been impressed with Bond as a LB, hope someone shows better then him. His biggest problem is staying healthy, and being consistent. I think if Justin Evans doesn’t get his ass on the field soon why keep him? He’s never played a snap in this new defense, and some have him listed as starter. That doesn’t make sense to me, it’s not like he’s ever even come close to living up to the hype… Read more »

dfk68

What I saw watching the Ogunbowale highlight video: A whole bunch of offensive linemen I wish we had here now!

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martinii

Cole Gardner, Cole Boozer??? I agree for the most part but need to see some preseason games. There are obvious veterans and FA, but surprised to see only one UDFA. We have a lot of talent we are going to lose when we put them on PR.

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TBAtlas

I’d be getting worried about Drew Lock if I were you Bob.

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nybuccguy

I’d be shocked if we only kept 3 TEs, especially without a FB on the roster.

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drdneast

How about your team the Broncos, DumbAssBob. They looked pretty pathetic against the Seahawks with the Broncos old QB, the gangly 6’7 Paxton Lynch loping in and blasting through a Bronco DB for the score.
Hilarious stuff.

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EastEndBoy

Reality check I guess: I find that 53 pretty frustrating TBH. It has the same weak links we’ve had for years – LT, OG (at one point LG now RG), DE/OLB…now our supposed pro bowl-in-waiting safety is not even expected to start the year. Our breakout running back isn’t named Jones (or even Barber) but Ogunbowale…we’re rotating in more young DBs to start alongside VHIII, who having been out is now back in I guess. I am happy that VHIII is being given a chance – I have believed in his talent but somebody needs to get him up on… Read more »

Spitfire

Sucks Vea May miss up to the first 4 games but there is a chance he will be ready Week 1. At least he’s not lost for the season. Can’t wait to see how the Roster falls into place once we see the Youth hitting guys for real over the next few weeks. Hoping for the best and excited as hell! Hopefully Cappa will see a lot of Preseason action and we get to see how he’s progressing. If there is a decent Dlineman released that can be had for $7mil or less before the season starts I think the… Read more »

seat26

Excellent analysis. I pray we stay healthy. Seeing so many players sidelined is depressing. But you have to be impressed with the development of Spence, ROJO, Cappa, Perriman, and Whitehead. I hope our OL can stay intact. Winston is going to be a beast this year. GO Bucs!

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flashgordon

I subtly remember a Chiefs player named Ross, even Kevin Ross; but, I didn’t realize our new Db coach was the same guy.

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seat26

Our Starters look pretty good, but Defense gave up way too many big plays. White was a nonfactor in the first half. Our 2nd teams on both sides of the ball look pretty bad. I am not impressed with our new defense at all in the first half of the first game. I am going to say it right now. Matt Gay is the best pick in this draft. Our first two picks look like they have a long way to go.

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seat26

Looks like our Punter will get a lot of work this year.

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Johnny Cannons

I feel like there’s a real battle to be watched between Ogunbowale and Bond on special teams, which could affect whether the team keeps Bond or Tanner Hudson. Recalling that DO was getting some personal protector reps on camp, if he lands that job I think the Bucs may need to keep Hudson. The 3 TE may play a lot and that seems to imply needing a 4th, and Hudson won’t last long if he doesn’t make the 53, I don’t think. But depth on the back part of the roster is not a bad problem to haves Rate this… Read more »