The unit made waves throughout the 2020 postseason under the pseudonym "Gravediggers", but make no mistake about it: The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' secondary feels as though it has a lot to prove moving forward.
The Buccaneers' group of defensive backs played a crucial part in the team's playoff success, compiling five interceptions from the Wild Card round through the Super Bowl. However, Tampa Bay ranked No. 21 in the league in passing yards per game allowed throughout the regular season, with 249.1. The Bucs also gave up 1.8 passing touchdowns per game, ranking slightly below league-average at No. 18.
So, in order to improve their regular season performance, the Gravediggers are putting the Super Bowl run behind them - now considering themselves to be "unknown guys" who want to establish respect for their game all season long.
"[We are] forgetting everything that happened last year and the year previous because it is an entire new season. And going in, I mean that’s what our mindset is – all of us are unknown guys trying to make a name for ourselves," cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting explained following Tuesday's training camp practice.
"All of us are trying to get to that second contract, that big payday and so it starts on the practice field," Murphy-Bunting continued. "Just knowing how to be a pro, and I say that every single year. Learning how to be a veteran and learning how to be a pro goes a long way.”
Two of Tampa Bay's five starting defensive backs are in the midst of a contract year: Cornerback Carlton Davis III and safety Jordan Whitehead. Murphy-Bunting and cornerback Jamel Dean aren't far behind as they are entering their third pro season and will be eligible for extensions next offseason.
Murphy-Bunting, in particular, was a star for the Buccaneers in the playoff run, compiling three interceptions and five pass breakups himself. Murphy-Bunting hasn't allowed his performance to get to his head, though, and considers himself to be back at square one.
"I don’t look at myself as being the guy who caught three interceptions in the playoffs," Murphy-Bunting proclaimed. "I look at myself as the guy that is just ready to work every day. I’m an underdog, I’ve been an underdog my whole life."
Murphy-Bunting's mindset is one that the third-year nickel corner believes the entire secondary unit will follow entering 2021: Don't buy into the hype, don't aspire for star status - just grind and get better as new opportunities present themselves, and everything else will fall into place.
Doing so should allow the Buccaneers' secondary to improve its performance in the regular season after an up-and-down 2020 showing, perhaps emerging as the consistent, play-making batch of defensive backs that we saw in the playoffs on a regular basis.
"That’s the mindset that all of us have. That’s the mindset that you should have," said Murphy-Bunting. "We have big-name guys on our team, no need to add into that mix. Just establish who we want to establish as ourselves and continue to grow in that aspect."
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