A Dive Into the Bucs Drafted DBs
The 2019 NFL Draft is either going to make or break the Buccaneers. After selecting a home run pick in LB Devin White in the 1st round, it was clear the Buccaneers had a priority going into Day 2: the secondary.
The much-maligned unit has been the focus of much scrutiny. The porous defensive group has been subjected to considerable blame for the team’s lack of success, citing the potent offense Tampa Bay possesses. It was clear that going into the 2nd and 3rd rounds, head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht looked to bolster this unit, to add speed and playmaking ability to the secondary. The new regime searched for a solution to the franchise’s defensive woes for the past century.
This solution came in the form of Central Michigan corner-back Sean Murphy-Bunting, Auburn’s Jamel Dean, and the University of Kentucky’s Mike Edwards. All 3 defensive backs possess speed, as well as the ability to take away the football at proficient levels.
Sean Murphy-Bunting is a small-school player with some big time talent. Registering 9 career interceptions in just 3 seasons, as well as 15 passes defensed, the 6’0 corner-back has some serious ability.
While he did play in the MAC against a lower level of competition, he dominated against his opponents; Murphy-Bunting’s talent transcended his conference. He Posted a 4.42 40 yard dash time and a 41.5 inch vertical, Murphy-Bunting checks all the boxes for the speed and athleticism that Head Coach Bruce Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles want to bring to this revamped defense. Sean Murphy-Bunting is a blue-collar player who’s worked for everything he has, which has been earned. This could be a story in the making.
Receiving no Division I scholarships on national signing day, Sean walked on at Central Michigan as a grey-shirt. It was a small opportunity, but that was all Murphy-Bunting needed. From that point forward, the dedicated young cornerback worked day and night to achieve his lifelong dream of becoming an NFL player. Within short time, the Central Michigan Chippewas had a lock down corner-back. A self-proclaimed film junkie, Murphy-Bunting doesn’t only rely on his athleticism to lock down opposing wide receivers, but understands that tape provides a critical advantage in the game.
“I take a lot of pride in film study and just known the receiver, knowing him more than he knows himself. I watch the same receiver that I’m going against every single day of the week, all day, all night, and between classes.”
In Murphy-Bunting, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are getting a proven and experienced ball-hawk, something lacking from previous seasons. He is said to be a Receiver playing the corner-back position. Many have compared him to players like A.J. Bouye.
If Tampa Bay’s new 2nd round pick can come in and make an immediate impact, it would go a long way to turning the Buccaneers biggest weakness into a strength.
Jamel Dean has a rare combination among NFL corner-backs today: a savvy blend of size and speed. Measuring in at 6’1, 206 lbs, while also running a blazing 4.30 at the NFL Combine, Dean can match-up and run with any wide receiver with ease.
A 3 year player at Auburn University, Dean’s story is not just one of success, but a tale of overcoming adversity and tribulation. Dean’s collegiate career began on a sour note, as he was medically disqualified to play at Ohio State due to his multiple knee injuries from high school. After sitting out all of 2015, Dean transferred to Auburn. During pre-season camp in 2016, Dean devastatingly suffered another knee injury, which shelved him for the season campaign. After a tough journey back, regaining confidence in his knee and in himself, a rejuvenated Dean remained healthy and started 11 games for the Auburn Tigers in 2017. Jamel played opposite current Buccaneers corner-back Carlton Davis, and the bond shared between them remains to this day.
After an outstanding 2018 season in which Dean posted 2 interceptions and 9 pass breakups, the Tigers lock-down corner-back declared for the NFL Draft. He was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 3rd round of the 2019 NFL Draft, reuniting him with former teammate Carlton Davis. Much lies ahead, but the road to this point for Dean has been one of relentless courage in the face of adversity. The same grit and determination the new rookie corner-back possesses will be brought to a young, talented secondary. Nothing has stopped him thus far, so look for Dean to defeat the odds once again.
Every Todd Bowles defense revolves around a versatile, playmaking safety. Kentucky safety Mike Edwards brings just that to the Buccaneers defense.
A 4 year starter at Kentucky, Edwards was the leader of the defense for Wildcats, providing blanket coverage on the back-end and suffocating run defense up front. Mike was the Swiss Army knife of the Kentucky defensive unit, which was one of the country’s best under the leadership and guidance of Edwards. The versatile safety has lined up in the slot, in the box, and played deep in single-high coverage.
Edwards’ Career Defensive Stats:
2015: 39 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 2 PBUs, 1 FF.
2016: 100 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, .5 sacks, 3 INT, 8 PBUs.
2017: 96 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 1 sack, 4 INT, 7 PBUs.
2018: 82 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 2 INT, 6 PBUs, 1 FR, 1 FF.
The same flexibility Edwards possesses is going to be a key factor in how he contributes to the Buccaneers. Todd Bowles, a defensive guru, loves to move his safeties around and add to the multiplicity of his scheme. That is where Edwards fits into this defense, and he’ll have a chance to compete for the starting job next to Free-Safety Justin Evans.
Mike Edwards is going to bring his grit, versatility, and cerebral processing to the Buccaneers secondary and look to be a game changer from day one.
The pieces are in place, and it’s going to be up to this new staff to craft it into something special.The team went into this off-season identifying a need for versatility, play making, and speed, and that was exactly what was accomplished. Murphy-Bunting, Dean, and Edwards all bring an infusion of talent to a secondary lacking it. Each year Todd Bowles runs a defense, the secondary always ranks in the top-5 overall in the NFL.
If all things worked out as planned, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers new defense should be fundamentally transformed, which would have massive implications for the success of this team.