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Bucs latest cornerbacks show signs of hope for defense

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It isn’t as if the Tampa Bay Bucs have cornered the market on success.

But things are better than they were.

New starting cornerbacks Sterling Moore and Jude Adjei-Barimah both played well Sunday, and the Bucs’ secondary looked more efficient than it has for most of the year, when the defensive backs were pretty much the men who tackled the receiver after he caught the ball.

“They’re definitely playing man-to-man coverage a little bit better than we have in the past,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “It definitely makes a difference when you are trying to stop some of these high-powered offenses that we face in the National Football League. Just to be able to play a little bit more man-to-man has probably helped us and credit to those two guys.”

So far this year, the Bucs have gone through Tim Jennings, Mike Jenkins and Johnthan Banks without success. But they could be onto something with their latest candidates.

Take, for instance, Adjei-Barimah, a free agent who was born in Italy and wasn’t widely known even after he made the Bucs’ team.

“It’s quite a story when you consider how he made our team. He was one of those guys that we had conversations about all throughout training camp because he kept catching your eye with some of the things that he was doing,” Frazier said. “Just his mannerisms, his poise throughout training camp and then when he got in ballgames in the preseason we said, ‘Boy, this guy has a chance. As time has gone on the game has never been too big for him. He finally got his opportunity and he’s played pretty well up to this point.”

He has paired nicely with Moore, a free agent who got off to a slow start with the Bucs.

“He and I had a lot of conversations over the last eight or nine weeks, believe me,” Frazier said. “It was on those terms as you mentioned. It’s great for him. He’s been patient. He’s been waiting for an opportunity and he has taken advantage of it to his credit as opposed to moping and having a bad attitude. When his number got called he has played well, so hopefully he can continue.”

Both corners will need to play well Sunday against the Eagles’ up-tempo offense.

“It can be a challenge,” Frazier said. “You look at the tape and you see teams getting caught with 12 [players] on the field or not being able to match up and not getting calls in, guys turning around and looking for a call. It’s something we’ve talked about. We worked on it yesterday in practice, we’ll work on it again today. That up-tempo can create some problems when you are talking about substitutions, getting the calls in to the defense. All those things are important and we need to keep our composure. Hopefully we’ll have a good enough plan where our guys can go out and play fast.”

If the Bucs could play anywhere close to how they played against Dallas, the team will have a chance. The Cowboys had only 2  yards per carry and the Bucs had three sacks.

“I think we had a good game plan obviously,” Frazier said. “Just the guys rising up. It was a great opportunity for us to play at home in front of our fans and get a win. We felt like we had to play really, really well on defense in order for that to happen. I think it’s a combination of what has happened over the first eight weeks leading up to that ballgame with our run defense, with our pass defense, the pressures we’ve been trying to run, just guys getting a little more in sync.

“You can’t discount the play of our corners. That makes all the difference in the world in our league when you have to match up with some of these really good receivers. You have to be able to defend the passing game. It’s a combination of things, but I would point to our secondary as much as anything.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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