Healthy Defense Will Inflict “Major Headaches”July 28th, 2010
The great performance X factor for most NFL teams, especially those as painfully thin as the Bucs, is injuries.
A few key guys on the shelf can nearly destroy an entire defense or offense (See Sean Mayhem circa 2009).
JoeBucsFan.com analyst Steve White, author of the heralded Bull Rush column and his own Passing On The Game blog, breaks down the Bucs defense in advance of training camp and is quite certain the 2010 edition will be give teams “major headaches,” if it can stay healthy.
The three starters at linebackers are pretty entrenched right now. It appears that Coach Morris has big plans for Quincy Black as the starting Sam linebacker, Barrett Ruud is primed to have a career year, and Geno Hayes in his second year as a starter may be on the cusp of big things. I like all three players and I think Hayes in particular may have a break out year. But after those guys there are a lot of question marks.
Adam Heyward is probably the most versatile of the backups and a guy the Bucs actually would trust if he were pressed into action. But while he is physical he doesn’t have the kind of size nor speed that you look for in a starting NFL linebacker. Then you have Jon Alston and Niko Koutouvides who will probably get first dibs on the other two backup linebacker spots but neither guy is anything special. I know a lot of people are high on late draft pick Dekoda Watson but I am not sold on how quickly he will transition from the college game. Instead I think he along with fellow rookie Rico McCoy will have opportunities to make their name on special teams this year.
Last year we kept seven linebackers and at the moment we have nine on the roster. Only two guys are going to be cut, but at this point that could be anybody not named Black, Ruud, or Hayes.
In 2009, Mark Dominik proudly pronounced that linebacker was where the greatest competition was on the Bucs. “It’s probably our strongest position on our football team, suprisingly I bet to a lot of our fans. That our depth and our talent is pretty good there,” Dominik said. “So that’s a good battleground to watch during training camp if you want to see some real competition.”
Joe remembers those days, when Jermaine Phillips was in line to take over for Derrick Brooks and never-was-healthy Angelo Crowell was the big offseason free agent signing on defense and poised to be the strong side linebacker.
It’s a new season, though, and the Bucs have no competition for their young starting linebackers.
White’s spot on when he expresses concern about depth at that position.