The Buccaneers’ first training camp under Head Coach Greg Schiano went well, but it started on an unfortunate note. In the first practice of the first day of camp, cornerback E.J. Biggers and wide receiver Arrelious Benn accidentally collided, and both players suffered injuries. Benn returned from his knee injury by Week Two of the regular season and has gradually been developing a more prominent role on both offense and special teams. Now it’s Biggers’ turn to work his way back into the mix.
Biggers, who sustained a foot injury in that Day One mishap, missed the whole preseason and was inactive for the first three games of September. He was finally among the 46 active players this past Sunday against Washington, however, and was immediately put into the DB rotation. He finished the game, a hard-fought last-minute loss to the Redskins, with one tackle and one pass defensed.
Defensive Backs Coach Ron Cooper, who has also seen second-year cornerback Anthony Gaitor miss the season’s first month with a balky hamstring, was pleased to have another option in the secondary. That became more important in the second half after starting right cornerback Eric Wright suffered a head injury and did not return to the game. Biggers has extensive regular-season experience, having played 32 games with 12 starts over the past two years.
“It’s really good that he’s healthy,” said Cooper. “He played well Sunday, did everything we asked. He went in and played 30, 35 plays, maybe a little bit more than that. We looked at the film from last year but I’m not judging anything on what they did last year. It’s a whole different time and we started over. I expect him to get better. His first game out there after he missed a couple, he got his feet wet and hopefully he’ll play better in the next one.”
With Aqib Talib starting at left corner and Wright taking over for cornerback-turned-safety Ronde Barber on the opposite side, the team has most prominently used Brandon McDonald in the nickel back role. McDonald didn’t join the team until mid-August but the former Brown, Cardinal and Lion has used his veteran experience to meld quickly into the Bucs’ defense. Defensive packages with more DBs on the field has also led to a not-insignificant amount of playing time for second-year safety Ahmad Black and rookie cornerback Leonard Johnson. Biggers is still a young player in his own right, but has more experience than Black and Johnson and has been in Tampa longer than McDonald, so it’s a good thing for the Bucs’ defense that he is finally available again.