Commentary | Tampa Bay Bucs trust in rookie CB Johnthan Banks

Revis will hold down his side, but rookie key to secondary's improvement

adell@bradenton.comJuly 26, 2013 

TAMPA

Everyone had come to see $16 million man Darrelle Revis, the human fountain that springs eternal hope for a Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that hasn't won a playoff game since 2002.

Quietly, working in relative obscurity, Bucs rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks stood in awe of Revis Island at the first day of training camp Thursday.

"It was very exciting to be out there. You kind of catch yourself in a daze just watching him, knowing you are on the same field as this guy," Banks said. "Every cornerback in high school or college, that's who they watch. Everybody wants to be Revis because the guy is the best at what he does."

The Bucs will settle for Banks being Banks, meaning they hope Banks is the talent that warranted them selecting him in the second round of last spring's NFL draft.

Drug/alcohol casualty Eric Wright has been shipped out of town after another DUI arrest, and the Bucs have accelerated Banks' growth.

They no longer want him to be effective. He is now a need.

Among autograph seekers, Banks was not the most sought-after Buc on this day. But he is the most important person in Tampa Bay's leaky secondary that came close to giving up the most passing yards in NFL history last season.

Revis, even at 75 percent health coming off his ACL surgery, brings marked improvement, and talk is he will be ready for the New York Jets on opening day.

But the cornerback spot opposite him is vital, and the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Banks is its brightest flicker of hope.

The best thing about the Mississippi State product is that he embraces his situation and is not afraid of the load that so many are putting on his shoulders.

"With him (Wright) gone, I have a real good chance of getting the job, but there is no pressure. This is what we do. We signed up to play football and just compete," Banks said.

Banks is a Greg Schiano type of guy. The Bucs head coach wants physical defensive backs over finesse type guys (no offense, Deion Sanders) who play as if cornerbacks are excused from contact.

A converted safety, Banks is not afraid to stick his head into the mix. If there is a concern, his upper body is on the thin side, but that is not uncommon among NFL cornerbacks today. And the Bucs do

have a weight room.

"I think his maturity is probably a little more advanced than a lot of guys his age. He is a guy that I really felt fit exactly into what we are looking for from a player and a person," Schiano said at minicamp.

The best thing about Banks is his demeanor. He has been described as a competitor who does not give up on balls and has the athletic ability to leap high to bat away passes.

He is an enthusiastic learner who picks things up quickly. He is long and athletic.

When Wright got the boot, the coaches didn't call Banks into a room. There was no need. He was already preparing to win the job.

"I know what it takes. I need to take care of my body, learn the playbook and be ready when my time comes," Banks said. "The biggest thing I see in the pros is adjusting to the speed of the game and techniques are different than in college."

Schiano says he has no qualms about throwing everything he has at Banks and seeing how he responds. Of course, the other options are not very good.

The Bucs have 10 cornerbacks in camp and, with the exception of Revis and Banks, none of the others would be guaranteed to make the roster of any NFL team.

That is scary for a team that resides in the same division as Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton. Even Philadelphia's Nick Foles tore apart this pass defense last year.

The best of the rest could be undrafted free agent Leonard Johnson, who had some productive days as a rookie last year. Anthony Gaitor could provide help, and there is Myron Lewis, the target for frustrated Bucs fans.

Outside their division this season, the Bucs face Tom Brady, Colin Kaepernick, Russell Wilson and a not-too-bad Sam Bradford.

So in Banks the Bucs must trust.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-07080, ext. 2112. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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