By Fred Goodall/The Associated Press
TAMPA, Fla. — Johnthan Banks isn’t making any bold predictions about the impact he’ll have as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The soft-spoken, second-round draft pick out of Mississippi State is being counted on make a difference in a leaky pass defense this year. However, the rangy cornerback wants to make an impression with strong play rather than words.
The Bucs are confident Banks – a former East Webster standout – has the skills and maturity to develop into a top-notch pro, and he is ready to take advantage of an opportunity to contribute right away.
“I’m not going to put myself out there like that,” Banks said of his chances of becoming an immediate starter in a defense that nearly set a NFL record for passing yards allowed last season. “I’m coming in here willing to work hard — special teams, defense — and do anything I can to help.”
Tampa Bay selected the 2012 Jim Thorpe Award winner 43rd overall despite trading its first round pick to obtain three-time All-Pro cornerback Darrelle Revis in a deal with the New York Jets.
Revis is generally regarded as the best player at his position in the game. Banks is looking forward to learning from him while competing with another veteran, Eric Wright, for playing time in a revamped secondary that also will feature another newcomer, All-Pro safety Dashon Goldson.
At the very least, Banks is expected to begin his rookie season as the fifth defensive back in passing situations.
After playing four seasons in the Southeastern Conference, routinely being assigned to cover opponents’ top receivers, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound native of Maben, Miss., feels he’s more than capable of holding his own in the pass-happy NFC South, where the Bucs face Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a year.
Although he’s not the fastest defender, the Bucs like his aggressive style and versatility. His 16 career interceptions tied a school record at Mississippi State.
“Everybody can look at my tape and tell I’m not a 4.6 guy. My tape don’t lie. It speaks for itself,” Banks said. “I played in the SEC four years. I played against Cordarrelle Patterson, who runs a 4.47, and he didn’t really do anything against me. … I think I have good game speed.”
Patterson, who played at Tennessee, was a first-round pick of the Minnesota Vikings.
“We ask our corners to do a lot, everything from press to bail to baiting, to playing off, rotating. He’s done all that. He’s shown that he can do that. I really likes the way he plays the game,” Bucs coach Greg Schiano said.
“He was the captain. He was the guy who makes their defense go, period,” Schiano added. “You love that, especially in a corner. That doesn’t happen very often.”
In addition to being attracted to his toughness and ball skills, the Bucs also cite the 23-year-old maturity as a major asset. Banks is married and has a young son who turns 2 on May 11, the same day the cornerback will graduate from Mississippi State.
“I think his maturity is probably more advanced than a lot of guys his age. He has his own family,” Schiano said. “He’s played a ton of football. So football-wise, he’s mature as well. He’s a guy that I really think fit exactly what we’re looking for as a player and a person.”
Banks said his wife and son, K.J., mean everything to him and help inspire him to be successful.
“Growing up as a kid, I didn’t have a lot. So I always said if I ever had a kid and a wife, I was going to make their life as easy as possible so they didn’t have to struggle like I did,” Banks said.
“Being mature and having responsibility,” he added, “I think it even makes my game better, being willing to put the time in and work in that it takes to be a good football player.”