TAMPA — If you think it’s pure coincidence that Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie cornerback Johnthan Banks dresses in the locker room stall next to Darrelle Revis, think again.
It’s all according to plan.
Revis, a perennial Pro Bowl corner acquired from the Jets in an April trade, is serving as an inspiring mentor for Banks, a second-round draft pick out of Mississippi State.
Banks has emerged from a difficult stretch when completions went sailing over his head into the arms of receivers capitalizing on his inexperience.
“I’ve been doing better every week,’’ said Banks, who has started the past five games at right corner, opposite Revis. “Coaches are putting me in position to succeed and I’m getting more comfortable. My whole mindset, from recognizing formations and learning from my mistakes, is improving.’’
Banks hasn’t heard his name announced over stadium loudspeakers in recent weeks — and that’s not a bad circumstance for an NFL cornerback.
“Now it’d be a really good thing if you started hearing it mentioned for knockdowns and interceptions, right?’’ Bucs coach Greg Schiano said. “Johnthan played every play the other night, and that was big for him.
“I think he’s another one of those rookies who, maybe, is getting over the hump. Part of that is you’re learning more and more football, and how it applies to your opponents.’’
Revis started every game during his 2007 rookie season with the Jets and has been impressed with the ability of Banks to make a smooth transition to the pro level. Banks started eight games during Tampa Bay’s 1-8 getaway, opening the season at nickelback before replacing Leonard Johnson on the right side following the bye week.
“For him to come in and start right away, that’s big,’’ Revis said. “You’ve got to pat Johnthan on the back for that. He’s played very well this year and I expect him to continue playing great.’’
After losing four games this season in which they held fourth-quarter leads, the Bucs proved to their fans and themselves they could make key plays in crunch time. In beating the Dolphins 22-19 Monday night, Tampa Bay turned away Miami’s final drive, aided by a pair of sacks.
“This defense had a lot of hype coming into the season,’’ Banks said. “To finally stand up and get a stop when it mattered most, that’s big.’’
For a frustrating stretch of five games, the Bucs were hurt by a flurry of long completions. Banks had a particularly tough day against Philadelphia a month ago after being cleared to play while he was being treated for a MRSA infection.
Riley Cooper beat Banks down the left sideline for a 47-yard touchdown and a missed tackle by Banks in the left flat turned into a 44-yard gain by Cooper in the fourth quarter, setting up a key score in a 31-20 setback.
“As a corner in this league, you can’t afford to dwell on your mistakes,’’ Banks said. “But you’d better learn from them.’’