Buccaneers: The emergence of Sean Murphy-Bunting

Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay Buccaneers stiff arm Michael Thomas #13 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Sean Murphy-Bunting, Tampa Bay Buccaneers stiff arm Michael Thomas #13 (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images) /

Sean Murphy-Bunting is not quite a household name unless you cheer for the red and pewter, but the second-round selection for the Buccaneers in 2019 has been on an up-and-down ride since entering the NFL.

It’s hard to imagine that notion, considering the man known as ‘SMB’ was a huge catalyst during the Bucs’ Super Bowl run last season with his three consecutive games with an interception. What makes this feat more difficult is the quarterbacks his defense faced in that span (Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and Patrick Mahomes). In Murphy-Bunting’s case, not everything that glimmers is gold.

During the early part of last season, there was definitely some cause for concern as opposing quarterbacks had such a high success rate passing against the former Central Michigan product. Between Weeks 1-15, Murphy-Bunting was targeted by opposing quarterbacks often, allowing 60-78 pass attempts (76.92 percent) for 754 yards, six touchdowns, and only one interception.

Quarterbacks enjoyed a 126.76 rating during the time frame, while Murphy-Bunting was ranked 114th by Pro Football Focus. During that time, Murphy-Bunting was also dealing with nagging injuries from a pulled groin, sprained ankles, and even dislocated thumbs.

As the playoffs neared and Murphy-Bunting began to heal up, his play skyrocketed as a result. After Week 15, quarterbacks were only able to complete 58.7 percent (27 of 46) of their passes for 247 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions to go along with their abysmal 53.26 passer rating.

When asked who to deserves the credit — Murphy-Bunting made it clear that it was defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for putting the corner in more man-to-man situations — where he thrives compared to playing off the ball.

“He holds us all to a high standard,” Murphy-Bunting said in an article by Yahoo Sports. “Being in this system for three years now, I’ve never played for a specific coach for more than two seasons. I just know that for me, it’s a big game-changer being able to come into camp already knowing the entire defense and just adding more pieces to that.”

Murphy-Bunting is also the first player since Hall of Famer Ed Reed (2006, 2008) to have an interception in three straight playoff games, along with SMB also recording 19 tackles in that time frame.

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Can Sean Murphy-Bunting begin this season the way he ended last? Assuming he stays healthy, the sky is the limit for the quickly-climbing Buccaneer corner.

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