With three new additions to the secondary in the draft, the whole unit has been one to watch so far throughout training camp. One guy that has been a little overlooked though is cornerback Ryan Smith.
Smith was drafted in the fourth round of the 2016 draft – the same draft that saw the Buccaneers take cornerback Vernon Hargreaves with their first pick at number 11 overall. Hargreaves has since become a more flexible player. He has been taking reps with the first team this year during camp on the outside but he is often rotated inside in the Bucs’ nickel package. That leaves a vacancy on the outside opposite cornerback Brent Grimes (presumably, as Grimes has been out of practice the past few days) and that’s where Smith comes in.
Smith has been holding down the outside, going up against the likes of wide receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson. He’s not only held his own, but he’s made some big plays. During practice on Friday, I watched him make a diving pass break up and get himself a nice pick off quarterback Jameis Winston.
The rookie corners in Carlton Davis III and M.J. Stewart have both had tremendous camps, especially considering their inexperience. Stewart had moved up to first-team nickel corner when Hargreaves had a leg laceration and was held out during camp. With Grimes out on top of that, Davis III has also gotten his first-team reps. All it’s seemed to have done is push Ryan Smith to make plays like the aforementioned ones more. Competition is a great thing and at cornerback, the Bucs suddenly have a lot of it.
Smith has the benefit of being in the Bucs’ system for two years as he enters his third in 2018. But with so much change with regards to personnel, there’s no doubt he will have to continue to adjust and elevate his game to keep himself in the rotation. It makes for a great story line to watch as camp continues.