Waston Evaluation In The SpotlightJuly 14th, 2014
Tampa Bay had a healthy, young Dekoda Watson eager to be re-signed to the Lovie Smith regime this offseason. Watson had established himself in the NFL as an extremely strong special teams player, an elite athlete who also was a solid backup linebacker with pass rush skills off the edge.
Given that Lovie Smith openly craves speed and athleticism in his linebackers, it seemed a no-brainer that Watson would return at the modest salary he deserved.
But Watson is no longer a Buccaneer. Very interestingly, Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley, the former Bucs linebackers coach under Monte Kiffin, snatched up Watson for not only a major role, but one unique to the NFL in his 4-3 defense.
You can read all about the “Otto” linebacker position here, via jacksonville.com.
The Otto position requires Watson to line up closer to the line of scrimmage. The Jaguars envision the position giving the defense a better presence in stopping the run and generating a pass rush.
Watson was asked to rush 28 times last season for the Buccaneers and recorded a sack and forced fumble in those attempts.
“Dekoda is very explosive,” [Jags linebackers coach] Saleh said. “He’s got a very unique ability to rush the passer as the outside linebacker. From that standpoint, his ability to use his strength and heavy hands to set the edge, plus his ability to rush the passer and his understanding of coverage expands what a traditional outside linebacker would do. So that’s what makes this Otto position unique. We’re going to ask him to do more than what a traditional outside linebacker would do. He has a unique set of skills that applies to all of it, and we’re trying to maximize the best things he does.”
Bradley’s pitch of how Watson would be used in the evolution of his defense played a major role in him deciding to sign with the Jaguars.
Joe’s not saying the Bucs should have re-signed Watson. Hey, if Lovie Smith didn’t want him, or didn’t think he was the “value” the team sought at $2 million per season, so be it. But it’s intriguing that a guy like Bradley, who was groomed in the Tampa-2 and helped craft and lead two top-10-ranked Seattle defenses as their coordinator (2010-2012), craved Watson.
Watson was a high work ethic guy in Tampa and often was involved when the Bucs sought player volunteers for community events. So there were no evident off-field issues.
It’ll be intriguing to see how Watson performs in Jacksonville, especially as a pass rusher. But Joe’s more curious to see how/if the Bucs can replace him on special teams.
Tampa Bay’s special teams were solid last year but they lost plenty of good special teams performers in Watson, Adam Hayward, Brian Leonard, Erik Lorig and others. It’s unclear who will fill those shoes.