De’Vante Bausby is Ready to Seize His Opportunity
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - De'Vante Bausby gets the feeling this is it.
The lightning-fast, 25-year-old corner has bounced around the NFL's practice-squad world for parts of three years now from his hometown Kansas City Chiefs, to Chicago, back to the Show Me State and finally as a key part of Philadelphia's scout-team operation during the 2017 Eagles' Super Bowl campaign.
“I need to put it all together," Bausby admitted when talking with reporters at his locker after an OTA practice earlier this week. "It’s been four years. I feel like I’ve got everything right now, I've got all the information I need. Now I need to put it together out there on the field."
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Pittsburg State, Bausby has already caught the eye of many in Philadelphia by becoming the Steven Means of the secondary, players who excel on the scout team and get others ready to perform at a high level on game day.
"His contributions were behind the scenes last year, but we have a lot of guys that have an impact on Sunday that might not be playing," defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz explained. "He worked the offense hard. I think those guys have respect for him, and I know our coaches have respect for him."
Count Alshon Jeffery among that group who respect Bausby. The Eagles' WR1 told the 25-year-old that he was better than any corner on Washington's roster after a game against the Redskins last season although Bausby conceded that Josh Norman wasn't playing that week.
“Alshon used to tell me, ‘Hey, Baus, you’re way better than those guys,’” Bausby said. “That was good to hear. But it’s time for me to prove it. Time for me to prove I belong."
Earlier this week Bausby was working with the first-team defense in Patrick Robinson's old nickel spot and again flashed the one thing that has become a theme when Schwartz talks about his CBs: the willingness to compete.
"He was ready to play for us last year if need be," Schwartz claimed. ".... He's a very, very competitive player. He's got good size, but his competitiveness stands out. You guys will see that [in training camp]."
Like most of the Eagles' young corners Bausby doesn't have much experience playing inside. He acknowledged his cups of coffee with the Chiefs, as well as Chicago, were spent trying to take advantage of his blazing speed and turn him into an outside corner. Schwartz, however, craves versatility and complete players so Bausby's easiest path to the field in Philadelphia may be the slot, something Bausby quickly realized once Robinson left for New Orleans in free agency.
“After we lost P-Rob, I kind of knew they were going to be looking for a new nickel guy," Bausby said. “I wanted to get a shot at it."
And that's all it is right now as Schwartz rolls through a number of bodies this spring including Sidney Jones, rookie Avonte Maddox, D.J. Killings and even starting outside CB Jalen Mills.
“You’re going to see a lot of different guys in there," Schwartz admitted. “We have a significant portion that will cross-train [play inside and outside]. ... We value versatility."
Bausby grew close to Robinson during the latter's lone season in Philadelphia which was a productive one for both sides. The Eagles got perhaps the best nickel cornerback in professional football en route to a Super Bowl LII victory and the veteran proved he was worthy of a $20 million contract from the New Orleans Saints at the age of 30.
The business of football doesn't mean Robinson is angry at the Eagles or is never looking back at what was the best season in the former first-round pick's career either. Just the opposite in that the classy Robinson is still trying to help the younger players he left behind at the NovaCare Complex, something Bausby has been taking advantage of.
"I was studying real hard with the film this offseason, and any question I had, I would give [Robinson] a call," Bausby explained.
Bausby also ran into Robinson on a pair of occasions during the offseason and wasn't shy about picking his mentor's brain.
"I met up with [Patrick] him twice [in the offseason]," Bausby said . "I asked him, ‘Why do you do this? Why do you do that? How did you do this or how should I do that,' and he just filled me in. He's just a smart player. Obviously he doesn't have access to our playbook any longer but he knew exactly what I was talking about."
Now it's about meshing that knowledge with a bigger body -- Bausby is up to 190 pounds on his lanky 6-foot-2 frame after entering the NFL at under 180 -- and the physical gifts that put him on the radar in the first place, things like a 37.5-inch vertical leap, exploding 11 feet on the broad jump, and capping everything off at Pittsburg State's pro day with a "wind-aided" 4.22 40-yard dash.
"It’s definitely been a roller coaster," Bausby said of his NFL career. “It’s been tough but I’ve kept believing that better things are in store down the road. It’s time for me to take advantage of the opportunity."
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on why winning isn't for everybody in New England at GetMoreSports.com