-Cornerbacks and receivers went through their one-on-one drills today in practice but then we also got to hear from members of both groups in the day's media availability. Head Coach Bruce Arians started off by talking about the young corners who are standing out to him.
"[Parnell] Motley for sure – he doesn't drop any," said Arians. "When they throw it around him, he catches it. I think Carlton [Davis] is having a great battle with Mike [Evans]. He wins some, he loses some. They're just getting each other better. Same thing with Sean [Murphy-Bunting] and Jamel [Dean] going against those guys. We did a little more one-on-ones, really for Tom [Brady] more than for anybody else. I think all the corners [are] progressing very nicely."
Cornerbacks Coach Kevin Ross was asked to reflect on the progress the now-second-year corners already made from last year. The defense underwent a drastic shift from the first part of 2019 to the second part, largely propelled by the improvement by the secondary. Tampa Bay ended up finishing with the most passes defensed of any team with 96. It was second-year man Carlton Davis who led the way with 19 but rookie Jamel Dean was right behind him with 17 – after only seeing significant work in nine games.
The hope is that the secondary can pick up where they left off and Ross sees that potential.
"The experience – now they know how to prepare, now they know what to expect," said Ross of what will help them be successful in 2020. "They should be very excited about this upcoming year. They're practicing the right way – we have to still get our execution part down a little better than how we're doing it right now. But, they're going in the right direction, I believe. Great attitudes out there."
Confidence is part of that attitude. And that's been noticeable among the defensive back group. In fact, Davis was asked what he thought about Coach Arians calling him one of the league's top 10 corners a couple weeks ago.
"Yeah, I definitely feel like I'm one of the top 10 corners in this league," Davis said. "Yeah, I'm young, but I've got a lot of experience over these last two years. We have a young group, but if I have to fill that [leadership] role, that's something I'm willing to do and think I'm prepared to do. If our coaching staff trusts me to do a job, then I'm going to do it to the best of my ability every time."
If Davis is young, then Dean is a toddler. The 2019 draft pick got a bit of a baptism by fire, being thrown into a starting role against Russell Wilson and the Seahawks' offense in Week 9 due to an injury to the aforementioned Davis in pregame warmups. The game… didn't go well for Dean. But he vowed to never let it happen again and put together one of the best rookie defensive back campaigns the back half of the year.
Now, he's getting to further hone his skills against some of the best receivers in the game, who also happen to be his teammates.
"Each one of them has their own special talents," Dean said of receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin. "Going against Mike, we know that he's one of the top receivers, so he's going to give us many different releases that we're not familiar with. It's almost like playing a game of chess with Mike – and the same with Chris. You don't know what to expect because they mix it up every time. It's even good to talk to those guys after practice to get an understanding of how they're playing us."
Simultaneous games of chess against some of the best players in the league, who happen to work extraordinarily well together. Godwin and Evans have been developing their complementary relationship since Godwin arrived in 2017 – and it's only getting stronger. And Godwin knows their tandem is rare.
"It means the world, honestly," Godwin said of playing with Evans. "I've been so fortunate to be in this position and to be able to ascend in my short career thus far with Mike Evans to lean on. Everyone knows how dominant Mike is. I think he's still one of the more underrated receivers in the league. Every time we go out there and work, we just go out there and we push each other. He knows he can lean on me, I know I can lean on him. We know that together we're going to push each other to be the best that we can be. Like B.A. (Bruce Arians) was saying, we're team-first guys. I think the biggest thing with us is if we're winning – yes, we feel like us contributing is going to be to the team's benefit, but at the end of the day if we win, that's the most important thing. Now we have myself, we have Mike, we've got Gronk (Rob Gronkowski), O.J. [Howard], Cam [Brate] – we have so many weapons that are going to be on display a lot more. There are going to be games where we're not necessarily featured as much, but we're here to win. We're not just here to win a couple of games, we're trying to every single game."
View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.