Bucs’ corner injuries press Justin Evans into cameo at nickel

Bucs safety Justin Evans, celebrating a pass breakup in practice, has gotten work at nickel corner while the Bucs battle injuries there.(MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Bucs safety Justin Evans, celebrating a pass breakup in practice, has gotten work at nickel corner while the Bucs battle injuries there.(MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published August 14 2018

The Bucs continue to be hit hard with injuries at cornerback, and for the third straight practice, starting safety Justin Evans was pressed into a cameo as the team's nickel cornerback on Tuesday.

"Because we're getting stressed in our depth at corner right now and nickel, Justin Evans is becoming one of those guys that has to be able to move around," Koetter said. "(Rookie corner) M.J. Stewart is in that same spot. When you get hit with injuries at one position, they don't cancel practice. We've got to figure something out. In the long run, it builds your depth."

Veteran Brent Grimes has returned healthy this week, but rookie corner Carlton Davis was held out Tuesday with an undisclosed injury not expected to be significant.

Two of the team's three normal options at nickel, Vernon Hargreaves and Javien Elliott, remain sidelined with injuries, with Hargreaves expected to miss Saturday's game at Tennessee. Needing two units to split work, they've moved Evans to the slot, with rookie Jordan Whitehead stepping in to his job as a starting safety.

Koetter said it wouldn't be a leap to see Evans and Whitehead playing together in  games, either in their current combo or as two safeties.

"I don't think it's that big of a leap … that's no knock on Chris Conte," Koetter said. "You've got to get your best guys on the field, and if your fifth DB is a safety and he's better than your fourth corner, you've got to switch it, or you just might have to in a game because of injury."

Asked if Evans could line up at nickel on Saturday, he said he's still hopeful that some of the injured players (likely Elliott and/or Davis) can return and allow Evans to stay at safety.

"You have to have a first nickel group and a second nickel group," Koetter said. "Tennessee's not going to feel sorry for us. They're going to run their stuff, and we have to be able to match up."

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