Frazier: Moore in lead for Bucs' starting nickel job
TAMPA -- Leonard Johnson was on the field for 65 percent of the Bucs' defensive plays last year, but former Bears defensive back D.J. Moore has the early lead for the team's starting nickel defensive back job.
"We've got some competition, but D.J., his history and his background kind of give him a leg up right now," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Tuesday, speaking to the media after an OTA practice. "With D.J.'s experience, he's been in this system, had a lot of success in it in Chicago. Leonard (is) learning the system, he's fighting to earn the spot and he's a very good special-teams player as well."
Moore, 27, had 10 interceptions from 2010-12 in the nickel role in Lovie Smith's defense, and that familiarity is a major advantage, even though he totaled only five tackles in two games with the Panthers last season. Johnson, 24, had 62 tackles last season while starting eight games, returning an interception 48 yards for a touchdown.
Given the prominent role of the passing game, the Bucs expect to be in their nickel defense -- with five defensive backs -- more often than with three linebackers, so the nickel is a key position in Smith's defense. Frazier, the former Vikings coach, said that veteran Danny Gorrer was also getting reps at nickel.
The Bucs should have good competition all over the defensive secondary, including the second cornerback job, where second-year pro Johnthan Banks is being challenged by former USF standout Mike Jenkins, a free-agent signee this spring.
"It's been very heated. Mike has come in fighting for a spot, and Johnthan Banks doesn't want to relinquish the spot," Frazier said.