Casillas, Watson Fighting For Starting GigAugust 21st, 2013
In the offseason the Bucs made it abundantly clear that the starting strongside linebacker gig was Dekoda Watson’s to lose. After Quincy Black’s career with the Bucs came to an abrupt end with nerve damage, it left a void and the Bucs wanted their special teams ace to get the job.
As is usual with Bucs coach Greg Schiano, he wants competition. And Schiano got that at the position when the Bucs signed veteran linebacker Jonathan Casillas from the Saints.
To hear Schiano talk now, the race for that starting job is a virtual dead heat. It’s not that Watson is playing himself out of a job, but that Casillas is doing so much and playing so well that he is a serious candidate for the job.
“I think it’s great competition,” Schiano said. “If you’ve noticed, they’ve even taken turns going with the ones [starters] and stuff. They’re driving each other, and if we play two of them, that’s fine with me, too, because they’re both key special teams contributors. [Linebacker] Jonathan [Casillas] does a little more in our sub-package, too. I think there’s going to be plenty of plays to go around for those guys, but they’re two key guys in our entire picture there.
“Remember, I have a long history with [Casillas], so I kind of thought he’d be a good player for us. That’s why we signed him, so I wasn’t really surprised. I’m glad he’s playing at a high level though. He’s a very physical player. There are some plays in games and practice where you just say, ‘This guy loves contact.’”
Casillas insists there is zero animosity despite the desire both he and Watson have for the starting job.
“I have a lot of respect for Dekoda,” Casillas said. “He’s a guy I have been going against since I was in New Orleans on special teams. I have a lot of respect for the character he brings to the table. It’s good to go out there and compete against him. He’s a good guy. We are bringing out the best in each other.”
Despite being a newcomer to the Bucs, Casillas said he now feels part of the team.
“I am very comfortable with the defense but if you asked me that at the start of training camp, I may have had a different answer,” Casillas said. “I’m learning all the ins and outs [of the defense]. Little things that show up. The preseason game this weekend will be a good test to my knowledge as well. Hopefully I add to it and continue to get better.”
Schiano constantly preaches about competition. This is proving to be a virtue at strongside linebacker. Whoever wins the job may not be much better than the guy who lost out. And on those broiling days in September and October, both men can rotate in and keep each other fresh. And if the unfortunate happens and one goes down with an injury, there shouldn’t be any measurable drop off.
Honestly, knowing how Casillas and Watson are going at it for the starting job, it makes Joe rest a bit easier at night, despite the late-night onion rings and beers.