Ross Cockrell could be a significant change for the Buccaneers on defense in 2021.
As nice as it may be for the Buccaneers to copy their roster from the Super Bowl and use it in week one against the Cowboys, Bruce Arians and his staff are more intelligent than that.
The dominant free agency period by the Bucs has been applauded for bringing back all of the starters from last season, but that doesn’t mean all of these players should automatically start again.
The integrity of a team like this and professional sports is based on the fact that the best players are always the ones on the field, which means that teams constantly have to evaluate their personnel.
Ross Cockrell played a small but critical job for the Buccaneers in 2020, and his role looks primed to expand substantially in 2021. At the very least, Cockrell’s production should skyrocket this season if training camp has been any indication.
Training camp isn’t a perfect indicator of where a player will fall, but it certainly doesn’t hurt a player’s prospects. Last year, Mike Edwards was the guy in camp that was constantly making plays, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that he was one of the most productive and efficient players in the league during the regular season.
This year, Cockrell appears to be that player taking the massive leap. It seems like a day doesn’t go by where Cockrell’s name doesn’t pop up alongside a pass breakup or interception.
Like a true defensive back playing between corner and safety when needed, Cockrell makes plays wherever he lines up. It is fantastic that the veteran DB has been able to keep this form going for so long, and it is about time for the coaching staff to start making some decisions on whether or not he should move into a starting role in the season opener.
The Buccaneers may love Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean, but leaving Cockrell out because he wasn’t a starter last season is a mistake. This decision has to come down to best player available, and Cockrell makes a compelling case under that definition.
Ross Cockrell has already proven that he can play at the nickel, outside, or at safety when needed, and being able to do so as well as he has so far is extremely impressive.
The coming weeks will reveal plenty about what the Bucs will be able to do with their wealth of defensive backs in 2021, but regardless of the other decisions, Cockrell seems like a lock to play a more substantial role once the regular season begins.
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