The Case For Keeping Barrett RuudMay 10th, 2011
The Bucs middle linebacker is — depending who you speak with — either a savvy, intelligent player that is able to put players in positions on defense to make plays, or is an embarrassment to any human who possesses male genitalia.
Don’t count Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan in the latter group. The duo, co-hosts of “Movin’ the Chains,” heard exclusively on SiriusXM NFL Radio, made sort of an impassioned plea yesterday afternoon to Bucs general manager Mark Dominik that if Ruud is allowed to walk away, it would be a grave mistake by the Bucs and the Bucs defense would, as a result of Ruud’s void, crumble.
Some local Bucs fan called Kirwan and Ryan to ask about Ruud and the duo gave to Joe’s knowledge, the most detailed, intricate explanation as to Ruud’s merits with the Bucs.
Bucs caller: I think some of the people don’t understand the way he works in the system. He doesn’t play up on the line; he drops back. I wonder if you can explain all of that and how he works in the system?
Tim Ryan: Well, it’s a passing league but you’d like the see Barrett Ruud make more tackles at the line of scrimmage. I understand that. Go look at those young defensive tackles in front of him and you are going to see guys getting pushed and on roller skates and get pushed right into Barrett Ruud. He’s not the most physical player when you talk about him. But he can key. He can diagnose. He can get everyone lined up. He’s not going to bust mental errors. Where Barrett is best is in that intermediate passing game as a second-level defender. He knows it’s coming. He understands route concepts. He can cover running backs out of the backfield. It’s going to be really, really hard replacing that. We would prefer the Bucs kept him but it sounds like, it sounds like the Bucs may be done with him down there and it sounds like he may be irritated they didn’t re-up with him when they had the opportunity before. Barrett is going to get an opportunity to get paid out on the open market if we can get to unrestricted free agency. I like [Bucs third-round pick linebacker Mason Foster] too, a lot. The guy played Mike linebacker as a true freshman. He has a bunch of tackles. But again, I can’t tell you the training that Barrett had under Shelton Quarles and under Derrick Brooks — and I know Shelton is still there but under a different role — and under Monte Kiffin, I mean, replacing the football intellect that Barrett Ruud is, that’s a tall order. Watch him when they run a naked bootleg. Watch Barrett when a bootleg comes. He sees it develop. No. 1 he knows by down and distance it is probably coming. Pat, he just doesn’t drop to his zone. He turns and starts hunting up that crosser, that mid-level crosser coming from the backside because he knows it’s coming.
Pat Kirwan: Yep, and those are techniques that you learn over time. You step into the run because you are the Mike backer. It’s not run it’s through — the smart guys know to turn opposite of the bootleg action and roll and locate the crosser. He’s good at that stuff. Look, here’s my thinking: You have to have a quarterback on the defense. You can’t just have 11 great runaround guys. Someone has to make the adjustments when you see things like they take the I-strong and they shimmy the fullback to I-weak. A lot of times you want to check your stunt. A lot of times you want to check from three-coverage to four-coverage. Who is doing all that stuff? They play the coverage enough that he has to drop deep down the middle, and he’s good at it. But look, I’ve said it before: He’s not an all-star. He’s not an All Pro. But his value doesn’t come in statistics all the time. His value comes in how he organizes guys on the sideline and like… how’s this: Your line coach goes — right in the middle of the game — “Hey, look, look, look. We’ve been pirating all week when they are in ISO. We can’t do it anymore. They’ve got it figured out, they’ve been blocking it. You need to check that I-strong stunt to a ram.” That’s easy to say that but now go out and do it.
Ryan: How about Barrett going over to the sideline and saying, “Remember two years ago when they tried to do this? Well, we need to do that.”
Kirwan: Right. That part of it is — someone is going to reap the benefits of that. He reminds me of a guy we had at the Jets, Kyle Clifton. Kyle ran 4.9, Kyle was this, that and the other thing. But every time we tried to play without him — hey, we have to get younger we have to get quicker — guess what happened? The mental errors went way up. I know Tampa Bay plays a simple system. Monte Kiffin groomed the guy. It’s worth something if they are going to move on. I’m a big fan of Mason. This is a gigantic challenge for him to make those plays. The way we played a lot of times when we played weak safety insertion, which I know Tampa Bay plays a ton of, and the run play came to the strong side, the Mike (linebacker) was like a leverage guy. He wasn’t a tackler. His job was to take the inside man and him back to the Will backer who he freed up to make the play. So a lot of times you look at him and you go, “Wow, he’s tied up.’ His job was to make sure the running back came back to the Will. So a lot of times if you don’t understand the scheme, you don’t understand what he is trying to do. Is he perfect? No. Is he replaceable? Maybe.
Ryan: He will have a job as a starting linebacker on another team next year. No question.
Kirwan: Yeah. He’d be a nice player for the New York Giants.
Look, as Kirwan has pointed out, Ruud is not Ray Lewis, never will be. Nor is he Patrick Willis. Nor is he Brian Urlacher. But Joe chatted with Kirwan at Super Bowl Media Day this February and Kirwan persuaded Joe to think differently about Ruud.
Kirwan, who was a linebackers coach under Kiffin with the Jets, was convincing enough to Joe that until Mason is groomed properly as his replacement — if that is who Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris have in mind to replace Ruud — the Bucs would be much worse off losing Ruud than losing Talib.
Right now with as many young players on the Bucs defense, they need a veteran to give them some stability and help the young guys learn the intricacies and nuances of an NFL defense.