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Bucs’ Young Defensive Backs Carlton Davis & M.J. Stewart are Showing Improvement | Carmen Catches Up

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-It was players’ day off on Tuesday but that doesn’t mean some of the guys weren’t around the building and elsewhere in the community. During the season, Tuesdays are often the only times Bucs players have any free time and a lot of them take full advantage by doing some good around the Bay. The Bucs Rookie Club took a visit to Metropolitan Ministries, hanging out with at-risk youth for some fun and games. Looks like rookie safety Jordan Whitehead has a hidden talent.

That wasn’t the only thing players were up to, either. A group that included Evan Smith, Lavonte David, Donovan Smith and Rakeem Nuñez-Roches hosted local active duty military members for a Pros vs. GI Joes gaming tournament at AdventHealth Training Center.

AND rookie Ronald Jones II pulled double duty, hosting a Strikes for Kids event yesterday evening. He and the organization hosted 75 kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay at Pinchasers (the favorite bowling alley of your Buccaneers). Jones has to be feeling pretty good right now, scoring his first NFL touchdown on Sunday and now connecting with the Tampa Bay community. Always great to see young players getting involved, especially on their days off.

-After the return of Riley Bullough on Monday, the Bucs signed another linebacker in Kevin Minter as they continue to shore the group up after losing Kwon Alexander and rookie Jack Cichy to knee injuries on Sunday. Minter has made 44 NFL starts, last with the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017 (convenient that the Bucs play them this weekend). Before that, he spent four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, starting 37 of 61 games played. While in Cincinnati’s 4-3 defense, he played middle linebacker, so he has that skillset. Oh, and he was drafted out of LSU– sounds familiar, right? He was with the New York Jets this past offseason and preseason.

In a small world fun fact: the San Diego Chargers drafted Minter in the second round (45th overall) in 2013, as well as QB Ryan Nassib in the fourth round (110th) overall, subsequently trading both to the Arizona Cardinals. Nassib was immediately traded by Arizona to the New York Giants, but you might recognize that last name, as in, he’s current Bucs’ defensive end Carl Nassib’s brother. Call me crazy, but I love finding those little connections.

-I know it’s Wednesday and we are way past the 24-hour rule but I wanted to talk a little bit about the rookies in the secondary and how much of a step forward they took on Sunday, because I didn’t really see anyone else talking about it. The Bucs’ defense held Baker Mayfield to just 251 yards through the air, the lowest total the Bucs have let up all season. Wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught just 66% of the balls thrown his way and didn’t reach 100 yards. It was the second game this season the defense didn’t allow an opposing receiver to reach that mark, the last being against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week Two. I want to talk specifically about a couple plays where I saw these rookie defensive backs do some great, albeit simple, things that made me think they’re improving.

There was cornerback M.J. Stewart in Cleveland’s second series, lined up over the slot on first-and-10. As the ball was snapped, he not only had his eyes on the slot receiver, he looked toward the backfield to see that Mayfield had handed the ball off to running back Nick Chubb. As Chubb tried to bounce to the outside, Stewart had come down to play the run and was able to grab Chubb’s legs before he could get past, resulting in a minimal gain. It was a small example but spoke to the recognition Stewart is developing, which to me suggests the game is slowing down a bit for him.

In the overtime period, it was rookie cornerback Carlton Davis that came up big on third down against Cleveland’s David Njoku. Davis was lined up about seven yards off the line of scrimmage and made a great read on quarterback Baker Mayfield’s intentions. He saw Njoku leveling out in the flat, heading for the sideline and dove in front of him to tip the ball. It forced the Browns to punt and got the Bucs another precious possession in extra time.

-Last thing, I’m going to plug the Salty Dogs podcast today with Scott Smith and Jeff Ryan because yours truly was a guest. Why, I have no idea, but Scott and I end up ganging up on JR which is kinda fun. Check it out below.

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