The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had troublesome cornerback Eric Wright penciled in as a starter heading into training camp, that is, until Friday when they traded him to the San Francisco 49ers for a meaningless late-round draft pick.
Trading away Wright has less to do with his performance on the field and more to do with his off-field behavior, including a recent arrest for a misdemeanor, and head coach Greg Schiano’s unwillingness to put up with players who consistently showcase low character. However, since Wright is a talented player who was expected to play a significant role on Tampa Bay’s defense this season, it’s pertinent to examine how the Bucs’ secondary will look now that he’s no longer with the team.
With Wright gone, the Bucs using their first two draft picks on cornerbacks doesn’t seem quite as questionable, as they traded away their first round pick to the New York Jets for Darrelle Revis, and then used their second round pick to draft Johnthan Banks. However, while the addition of Revis and Banks gives Tampa’s secondary a great infusion of talent, it may not necessarily solve the problems the Buccaneers are facing defensively, especially after finishing last in the NFL against the pass last season, giving up nearly 300 yards per game.
Revis has been one of the top cornerbacks in the NFL for many years, but coming off an ACL injury there are questions about if and when he’ll be back to 100%. Even if he’s not a full participant in training camp, Revis should be ready for the start of the regular season, but whether he’ll be quick to regain the form he had before the injury is something we won’t know until we see him play. As for Banks, he’s almost a lock to be in the starting lineup now that Wright is gone, and he’s well prepared to step into the starting lineup right away after spending his college years in the SEC, but he’s bound to go through growing pains in his rookie season. Banks is also more adept at playing zone coverage than he is at playing man-to-man, which could potentially pose a problem for Tampa Bay’s defense.
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At cornerback, the Bucs may have some questions to go along with their talent, but at safety they have plenty of talent without the question marks. Last year’s first round pick Mark Barron is talented enough to be one of the best safeties around, while Tampa Bay added Pro-Bowl safety Dashon Goldson in free agency to put the finishing touches on one of the most talented defensive backfields in the NFL. Barron and Goldson should be able to provide support for Revis until he regains his old form while also make up for any youthful mistakes that Banks might make.
The Buccaneers’ secondary may not be perfect, but it’s certainly one of the most talented in the NFL, and there’s no way Tampa Bay will give up the most passing yards in the league the way they did last season. Trading away Wright creates some questions, and raises some issues with depth, but Schiano and the Bucs would gladly trade that to rid themselves of Wright’s off-field issues; and odds are, by the middle of the season, Tampa’s secondary won’t miss Wright one bit.