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Bucs defense looks to force more mistakes

Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks, right, and his teammates say their emphasis is on forcing opposing offenses into more mistakes, which in turn will lead to turnovers.
Bucs cornerback Johnthan Banks, right, and his teammates say their emphasis is on forcing opposing offenses into more mistakes, which in turn will lead to turnovers.
Published Aug. 8, 2015

TAMPA — Bucs CB Johnthan Banks stretched his long arms and intercepted the first pass thrown by Jameis Winston during the 11-on-11 team period Friday. Winston has had his share of bad throws in training camp, but this was more about what Banks did right than what the rookie quarterback out of Florida State did wrong.

"I kind of misjudged the ball a little bit," Banks said. "Jameis has got a big arm. You can misjudge his ball easy. Kind of went over my head, but I'm a long, tall, lanky guy and God blessed me with these long arms, and I was able to make a play. It wasn't a bad pass, but I was able to make a play."

Those kinds of plays were missing last season, particularly from Bucs cornerbacks. Banks led the team with four interceptions, but Alterraun Verner, a Pro Bowl pick in 2013 with the Titans, had only two.

"We preach take the ball away, of course, as much as anybody," coach Lovie Smith said. "It's good to finally see us getting eyes on the football, whether it be interceptions or creating turnovers off of fumbles, whatever."

Winston, who had five interceptions his first two days of camp, isn't afraid to make mistakes so long as he learns from them.

"It was a single high," Winston said of the pick. "I gave my man a shot. But those other guys are good over there. Like I said, it's not about that, it's about going out there and competing and getting better every day.

"If you make a mistake, you've got to bounce back. That's one thing about being a good quarterback. I never let one thing get me down."

Smith said he expects the team's corners to be better in their second year of playing the Tampa 2 defense.

"Alterraun last year was nursing a hamstring and coming off of it," Smith said. "He missed a lot of work. But he's out there now. He has excellent quickness. Very bright … and (able) to dissect what we're asking him to do. Johnthan Banks made some good plays last year. I like Mike Jenkins, what he's done. Of course, Sterling Moore. We're trying to be as deep as we possibly can."

Herron impressing: Last season, WR Robert Herron had trouble catching the football at times. As a result, he played only eight games and finished with six catches for 58 yards and one touchdown.

The sixth-round pick from Wyoming last year is finishing plays better this season during training camp.

"Robert has excellent speed and quickness. You notice that right away," Smith said. "In the past, maybe you would've liked for him to have held on to a few more balls, but that's what he's doing. The second year, anywhere in the system, you should see marked improvement."

Reunited: For the first time in camp, the team had both rookie second-rounders — LT Donovan Smith and RG Ali Marpet — working with the first-team offensive line Friday. Both have rotated in with the first unit, with Marpet getting his first look there Thursday. "They're coming along fairly quick," said Smith, though they'll continue to compete with second-year pros Kevin Pamphile (at tackle) and Kadeem Edwards (at guard). … Backup C Josh Allen, who sprained his right ankle this week, was on crutches Friday with a boot on his right foot. He said he doesn't expect to be sidelined long. WR Louis Murphy (ankle), S Chris Conte (hamstring), LB Quinton Alston (undisclosed) and DT Akeem Spence (back) remain sidelined.

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Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.

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