TAMPA — His mentor has moved on, but don’t think Johnthan Banks feels like a lost soul at training camp.
The second-year cornerback of the Buccaneers is on a mission to prove to a new coaching staff that he deserves to start opposite free-agent addition Alterraun Verner this fall.
“I love the doubters,’’ said Banks, a second-round pick out of Mississippi State in the 2013 draft. “A lot of people say this scheme doesn’t fit me, but it’s a lot of what I did in college. It’s really easier because I can see the ball and make more plays.’’
As defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier implements a system rooted in Cover 2 principles, Banks won’t have the comfort of knowing elite corner Darrelle Revis will be sitting at an adjacent locker, eager to share his tricks of the trade.
Revis was released in March, one day after the Bucs signed Verner from the Titans.
“Johnthan Banks is a competitor, and I like what I see,’’ Verner said. “He’s a student of the game, very humble and willing to learn. He moves really well for his size. Banks can match up with the big guys, obviously, and I’m pretty sure he can handle the shifty guys, too.’’
Banks endured a typically inconsistent rookie season as the Bucs stumbled to a 4-12 finish that prompted massive changes.
In a 13-10 home loss to the Cardinals in Week 4, Banks made a spectacular one-handed interception in the end zone to stifle an Arizona drive. It was one of three interceptions on the season for Banks, who started all 16 games and was credited with 55 tackles.
“I really like Banks,’’ Arizona Pro Bowl wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said last month. “He’s got some good length (6-foot-2) and he’s going to be a good one.’’
Banks was thrilled to hear Fitzgerald’s remarks.
“That right there makes you feel good about yourself, coming from a guy who might be the best receiver in the league,’’ Banks said. “That’s a confidence boost, but I’ve got a lot of confidence in myself to begin with. I had my ups and downs, like any other rookie — Year 2 should be easier.’’
But there were also some critical communication breakdowns that resulted in touchdowns and some poor reads by Banks against veteran quarterbacks.
“As a rookie, you’re going to have some mistakes,’’ said Bucs coach Lovie Smith, “and you’re going to have some plays that give you hope for good things to come. That’s what I remember from (Banks) — very good size, coachable guy, good hands. ...All the traits you look for in a good cornerback, he has them.’’
While Verner is assured of one starting spot, Banks faces serious competition from veteran Mike Jenkins, the former University of South Florida standout who has six years of NFL experience.
Smith and new general manager Jason Licht weren’t in charge when the Bucs selected Banks, so he needs a good camp to solidify his status. He’s not complaining about a Tampa 2 scheme that emphasizes zone concepts as opposed to press coverage.
“It’s not a lot of thinking, you just play fast,’’ Banks said. “The game has slowed down so much for me now. I’ve got no pressure on me, my mind’s clear and I’m looking forward to a new challenge. Deflections aren’t good enough around here anymore. As a defense, we want the football, and we’re going to get it.’’