Buccaneers DB MJ Stewart has a knee injury that is going to keep him out a few weeks. How does this impact the Buccaneers secondary?
According to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back M.J. Stewart has a sprained right knee which is going to keep him out at least two weeks. This hurts an already depleted Buccaneers secondary as the team released former first round pick in CB Vernon Hargreaves III yesterday.
The team promoted cornerback Mazzi Wilkins who went to Plant High School and went to USF and has spent this season on the practice squad after having a solid training camp and preseason. Rookies Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean will be getting a lot more playing time with Hargreaves III gone and Stewart injured. The cornerback room will be very thin with Murphy-Bunting, Dean, Wilkins, special teamer Ryan Smith, and Carlton Davis III who is coming off of a hip injury.
Jamel Dean was thrown into the fire in Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks after Davis III suffered his hip injury during pregame warmups. Dean was abused all game long by Seahawks wide receivers Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf but bounced back against the Cardinals. Against the Cardinals, Dean gave up one reception for -2 yards with two pass breakups and one interception. Jamel Dean spent a lot of time during the week watching film and studying with Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles to correct his mistakes and that’s exactly what he did.
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Sean Murphy-Bunting has slowly turned into the Buccaneers top cornerback according to head coach Bruce Arians. On the season, Murphy-Bunting has 11 tackles, three pass deflections, and one interception. The coaching staff is very high on his ability to make plays.
Second year cornerback Carlton Davis III was seen as the leader of the secondary as he was the second most experienced behind Hargreaves III. On the season, Davis III has 28 tackles and six pass deflections. Hopefully, Carlton Davis III can stay healthy as the team only has five cornerbacks currently.
Ryan Smith was never really seen as a defensive back for the Buccaneers. The team uses him as a gunner on special teams plays. Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season after violating the league’s policy on substances. On the season, Smith has five tackles and one forced fumble. He will be thrown into some game situations but hopefully they don’t turn out like the play he gave up against the Cardinals for a touchdown last week.
Mazzi Wilkins compiled eight tackles during preseason but was all over the field. He caught the eye of the coaching staff which is why they kept the hometown guy around on the practice squad. He is very versatile and can run all over the field so the Bucs will use him in all kinds of Defensive packages. It will be interesting to see how much playing time he gets on Sunday against the Saints.
As you can see, there isn’t a true veteran presence among the Buccaneers CB group. There are only five cornerbacks available on the active roster. If somebody gets injured again the group could be in trouble as they’ll be forced to play majority of the game instead of splitting up reps. Hopefully, the team is preparing for this situation in case they need to go out and sign someone or promote newly signed John Franklin III from the practice squad.