Johnthan Banks soaks in Bucs' cornerback classroom

Johnthan Banks, chasing Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, started against the Panthers and took a majority of the snaps. [Getty Images]
Johnthan Banks, chasing Carolina running back DeAngelo Williams, started against the Panthers and took a majority of the snaps. [Getty Images]
Published Sept. 12, 2014

TAMPA — In only his second season, Johnthan Banks has already seen Pro Bowl cornerbacks cycle through the Bucs' locker room.

Darrelle Revis. Mike Jenkins. Alterraun Verner.

With Revis in New England and Jenkins on injured reserve after sustaining a season-ending pectoral injury Sunday against the Panthers, only Verner is left. Banks said he has tried to mold his game from techniques they have taught him so he can get to their level: "All three of those guys made Pro Bowls, somewhere I want to be. So why not listen to those guys? They've been where I want to go."

And, the Bucs hope, where he's going.

They drafted the lanky 6-foot-2 prospect with the No. 43 overall pick in 2013, but that was under a different regime. Though Banks started every game as a rookie and snared a game-sealing interception in a win at Detroit, the Bucs added Jenkins in free agency. They listed Jenkins as a starter in the offseason, though Banks started the 20-14 loss to Carolina and took a majority of the snaps.

But Banks' role is different now that Jenkins is out and the secondary's depth has disappeared. Outside of Banks and Verner, the Bucs' cornerbacks have combined for eight NFL tackles.

"He'll really have to step up now," defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

The Rams present a mix of size and speed Banks will try to tame in Sunday's game. St. Louis' leading receiver in Week 1 was 6-foot-3 Brian Quick, and its most dangerous target, 5-8 speedster Tavon Austin, can line up at running back or receiver.

"Each week someone will pose different problems for you," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said. "But I wasn't displeased with how (Banks) played last week. We all need to play better."

Banks graded out well in the opener, Frazier said, especially in tackling, which the Bucs covet in their cornerbacks. He had five tackles in 45 plays.

"Tackling is a want-to thing," Banks said. "You've just got to want to tackle."

But if Banks wants to ascend, to Revis' category, he knows there's more to it than tackling. He'll have to start getting more interceptions.

A Bucs defense that has preached takeaways since Smith's arrival in December got none against the Panthers. Banks had three last season and should have more chances to see the ball leave the quarterback's hand in the team's revamped scheme.

"I caught a lot of interceptions in college, just being able to see the quarterback and watching the ball," Banks said. "That's how you make your money, getting that ball. That ball is worth millions."

Banks left training camp brimming with confidence. He said he is 10 times better now than he was as a rookie. He knows his coaches trust him to do his job, so he can relax and simply play the game.

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene

Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter

We’ll send you news and analysis on the Bucs, Lightning, Rays and Florida’s college football teams every day.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

And with two of the three Pro Bowl cornerbacks with whom he has worked either departed or injured, this is Banks' opportunity to show whether he can one day join their ranks.

"I don't just want to be a starter in this league," Banks said. "I want to go on and have a great career like Revis and some of the top guys in this league. Hopefully that's every cornerback's goal, to be one of those top guys. It may not happen, but it might. Until then, I'm going to work for it."

Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.