Every year, the offseason is the time that players generate goals and dedicate themselves to achieving it. For Buccaneers' cornerback Carlton Davis III, he is prioritizing "ball skills" entering Year Five. Following Day Two of mandatory minicamp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center, Davis elaborated on the element that will take his game to new heights.
"I feel like I have been at that level (All-Pro) for two years now," Davis exclaimed. "But like you said, it is about turning those PBUs (pass breakups) into interceptions, getting that notoriety that I really deserve. It's about finishing. I'm an All-Pro corner 80 percent of the play but that last 20 percent – when the ball is coming – I have to make that play. That is going to be the big turning point for me in my career…I'm always around the ball, my coverage is second to none, but when I really dial in on my ball skills and am a ball hawk, that is when I feel I will get the notoriety and I will be able to make more noise than what I'm doing now."
Over his four-year tenure in Tampa Bay, Davis has accumulated six interceptions, recording one last season. He posted a career-high with four in 2020, as the Bucs went on to win Super Bowl LV. Conversely over the same timeframe, Davis accumulated 52 passes defensed, registering 11 in 2021. However, it is more challenging than ever to judge a cornerback's impact on the field. There is no set stat that measures production. Interceptions are often viewed as the all-encompassing testament of performance, but they do not paint the full picture of a cornerback's value.A player can be stout in press-man but does not necessarily have the chance to accumulate interceptions. The stat is often a byproduct of errant throws, a result of a team's formidable pass rush and not dominant cornerback play. Zone coverage is typically more conducive to tallying interceptions, while the cornerback focuses on the quarterback's eyes. But, I digress.
Davis has established himself as one of the best cover corners in the NFL, lining up across from the league's best. He excels at the line of scrimmage, utilizing his size and length to jam his opponent. Davis possesses the strength to press receivers off their route. This offseason, his goal is to focus on playing the ball well in the air, leveraging his size/length. His prowess as a shutdown corner combined with improved ball skills will optimize his skillset and place him near the top of the NFL's pecking order at the position.
Davis is tasked with mirroring multi-faceted offensive playmakers every week with extended knowledge of the opposition's tendencies on routes. He faces a future Hall of Fame receiver in Mike Evans during practice every day, enhancing his play. The 25-year-old has grown exponentially and enhanced his repertoire, garnering recognition after practice on Wednesday.
"He is sneaky quick but what people don't understand is Mike is a hell of a competitor," Davis remarked on Mike Evans. "There are days where, it's like day six of camp and he is going hard. My legs hurt, and I am barely getting out of my pedal, and he is full-speed, full-go and he is on a different timing than everybody else. He wants it more…he has the physical abilities, he can do it all, but his mental and how he approaches the game is so much different and underrated…he is a monster to go up against every day."
With reinvigorated desires for 2022, Davis will be one to watch throughout minicamp/training camp.