The question has been raised about what value M.J. Stewart brings to the Bucs defense. With OTA’s currently going on, the focus of OTA’s is on the younger players, mainly rookies getting a lot of reps.
Surprisingly, there are three players that haven’t been talked about hardly at all so far. Those players are M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, and Kentrell Brice. Stewart and Davis are entering their second season with the Bucs, while Brice was signed by Tampa earlier in this offseason, so this is his first year with the Bucs.
There is a rumor floating around that due to Stewart, Davis, and Brice not being mentioned by the coaching staff in their press conferences, that their days may be numbered in Tampa Bay.
Because of several injuries to the Bucs secondary last year, several rookies were forced into playing time. When it comes to Stewart, at 5’11”, he is a bit undersized when it comes to what most pro scouts are looking for in an ideal corner. In 2018, despite playing in 11 games, only starting in five of them as a rookie in 2018, Stewart had just 33 total tackles (31 solo and 2 assisted), 2 tackles for loss, 2 QB hits and three pass deflections.
With Vernon Hargreaves returning from injury and being healthy so far in 2019, he will surely take the #1 corner spot. With the Bucs prioritizing most of the 2019 NFL Draft on improving the secondary once again, drafting Sean Bunting, Jamel Dean, and Mike Edwards, those three could really push for some playing time and possibly even surpass Stewart, Davis, and Brice on the depth chart. Also, don’t forget about Ryan Smith and Devante Harris in the secondary as well. It is still not a foregone conclusion whether Stewart will play safety or corner because he was tried out at both positions last year. But Licht did mention that they’d love to see Stewart at safety. Depending on if Justin Evans can get healthy enough, he might just take one of the starting safety positions while Jordan Whitehead, Mike Edwards, and Isaiah Johnson will push for the other starting safety spot.
What exactly does this mean for the future of Stewart, Davis, and Brice? I don’t necessarily think that their days in Tampa Bay are numbered, instead, I think they could be utilized for depth in case of injuries. I just want to see the best players start because they worked hard and earned it.