NFL Insiders: SAM Linebacker Important

June 19th, 2013
Nick Barnett, who led the Bills in tackles last season, was floated on SiriusXM NFL Radio as a potential candidate to play SAM linebacker for the Bucs.

Nick Barnett, who led the Bills in tackles last season, was floated on SiriusXM NFL Radio as a potential candidate to play SAM linebacker for the Bucs.

Earlier this week, Joe unexpectedly made waves on Twitter when he noted how crazy this notion is that SAM linebacker is unimportant in the Bucs defense. Joe was even blasted by a Belgium-based blogger for, in this person’s mind, typing heresy.

The notion that any defensive player is “unimportant” rankles Joe to his very core. It is so nuts, Joe can barely write a coherent response.

Now Joe knows the calculator crowd will state a SAM linebacker maybe plays half the time in many cases. True. So does that mean you roll out some slug to play? Of course not! That guy will get exposed each and every play he steps on the field.

Pat Kirwan and Tim Ryan, co-hosts of “Movin’ the Chains,” heard exclusively on SiriusXM NFL Radio, discussed the Bucs on Monday and they are of the mind that the troika of Adam Hayward/Dekoda Watson/Jonathan Casillas is not starting caliber and Bucs rock star general manager Mark Dominik needs to go shopping this summer for both a solid SAM linebacker and a pass rusher.

Tim Ryan: To me with the Bucs, the question marks are about defense. They are about the linebackers and they are about that pass rush.

Pat Kirwan: Well, I don’t think these things are not solvable. I respect they will go to camp and try to work things out with the guys they have. But they have the cap space to go out and grab a couple of guys. To me [on the defensive line] it’s about John Abraham. Right now if they signed Abraham, we would be singing a different song. Just one guy who can rush the passer on third down. If you also want to tell me they also bring in a linebacker like Des Bishop if he passes the physical, then great.

They are not that far away from being in the thick of things. They need a pass rusher. They need a guy to replace Adam Hayward. I don’t want to hear Dekoda Watson’s name. They shored up the secondary. I think things there look pretty good. [Johnthan] Banks beats out Eric Wright, fine. If he doesn’t, I get it. There are guys right now on the street that aren’t so expensive they can’t find them. Maybe they are waiting to see how they look?

Just sign the two veterans, right now! Finish off the project you started.

Later, Kirwan even dropped the name of Nick Barnett, Buffalo’s 2012 leading tackler who the Bills let loose this spring, as a strong option for the Bucs at linebacker.

Joe knows this will tee off some. When the Bucs had an uncoached Quincy Black, an overwhelmed rookie in Mason Foster, and over-hyped Geno Hayes, they may have been the worst linebacker unit in football and Hayward couldn’t break the lineup. To Joe that says it all about Hayward’s ability. Joe has nothing against Hayward, other than going MMA on his position coach, Bryan Cox, on the sidelines last year. Joe’s a coaches’ kinda guy, and you simply don’t pull a stunt like that under any circumstances if you want to keep order on a team.

It was wrong then and it is wrong today.

And can we stop with this patently absurd notion that a SAM linebacker is unimportant? If this position was so unimportant and trivial, why not just play with 10 men and save a potential injury?

Both of those suggestions are equally moronic.

When 90 percent of the Tampa Bay area was trying to run Black out of town (Joe was in this group as well, but Joe’s eyes were opened when Black actually got coached up by Cox), Joe never once heard of people shrugging their shoulders and saying, “Eh, don’t worry about Black, he plays an unimportant position.”

36 Responses to “NFL Insiders: SAM Linebacker Important”

  1. Nick2 Says:

    I have no idea why we keep banking on Bowers and Clayborne when the two have had no history of huge sack numbers. Yes they are young but we need just one proven veteran who history has shown can get to the quarterback. I don’t even think that Abraham would come at a high price after numerous teams have turned their back on him. Come on rock star! Don’t wait for training camp to decide we need a proven pass rusher we need one now!!!

  2. Couch Fan Says:

    Why would kirwan not want to hear Watson’s name? That doesnt make much sense to me. He is young and hasent proven himself completely useless yet. To me that screams as if he has something personal against the guy.

  3. James Pearls Says:

    whilst we may have shitty options with our current group of SAM LBs, we do still have two good and improving LBs in foster and david so im not that worried. do need to get a good D end though! dont know why we let bennett go…

  4. You Go Joe Says:

    Can’t be wasting money on a position that gets only 51% of the snaps. I’d rather invest it in Mike Williams contract extension or roll this cap space over to next year. We will be needing it. And will you quit it with the “SAM linebacker not that important should play 10 man D” Your just talking rubbish to the point of just letting an open man in the field. The position is needed, but not that bad. It sounds a bit ignorant when you take the view so literal with that view.

    We can’t fix everything this off season. especially a position with 51% of snap count. We lost a player that wasn’t THAT great but we sure as heck don’t have THAT great of players to replace him. Next man up and we try to develop that player. Maybe next year we get another LB to fill in, but the team has already been built for 2013. We now need to train it and prepare.

  5. tonytwocents Says:

    no more signings! were going to need those chips when our young guys blow up this season and need their contracts extended.

    as far as our pass rush, a healthy clayborn is a stud. if bowers struggles, then stack that line with a 3rd DE. or bring down a Safety or LB.. Kiffin was a genius at disguising and mixing up his blitzes. if SLB is “unimportant”, sick him on the QB.

  6. Macabee Says:

    According to a recent article by PR on Quincy Black’s replacement, Schiano and Sheridan don’t emphasize the SLB position as much as some teams as they played their base 4-3 only around 40% of their defensive snaps in 2012. The Bucs spent a majority of the time in a nickel (two LBs and one extra DB) and in dime coverage (one LB and two extra DBs) and in each case the SLB comes off the field.

    Even though they de-emphasize the position, it is still an important part of stopping the run, and the player that fills the role must also be athletic enough to drop into pass coverage at times, especially if the team drops into a Cover 2 or Cover 3 scheme. In the NFC South, QBs are as likely to throw on 1st or 2nd down as they are on 3rd down. And who’s to say they run this defense as much this year as they did last year. After all they did change the defense for the final game in Atlanta and won that game! So, is the SLB position important? I would say yes, but not as critical as the other LB positions!

    Jonathan Casillas has never played the SLB position as he was a WLB at the Saints and he’s somewhat small for the role, but may be coached up. Adam Hayward, the perennial jack-of-all-trades LB is an unlikely candidate to be the starter. Dekoda Watson took snaps with the first team during OTAs. Maybe this is his year to break out! And it is still early, they may bring in another LB to compete for the position during training camp.

  7. T in Orlando Says:

    @ Joe

    You stole the 10-on-11 thought from my last diatribe on the SAM discussion.

    I’ve got little issue with the thought of bringing in a veteran pass rusher, although I don’t think the Bucs will do it.

    We should absolutely not sign another vet LB for the SAM position. The Personnel guys and coaches should have a good grasp on the players that could fill the spot on the roster from last year; Watson, Hayward, Cutrera and Goode; plus we brought in a vet LB in Casillas, who has been a solid, if unspectacular, player in the past.

    Joe, if you like the most of the moves (and non-moves) Dom has made the past 5 years, and like the coaching the Schiano and his staff did last year, why is it a stretch to believe that we have a solid starting SAM backer on the roster already?

  8. Justin Says:

    How was our defense affected when Black got injured? Not at all. Everything remained the same. We stuffed the run, and got killed by the pass.

    Watson will fill the role just fine.

    Does Kirwan really think our SAM LB is the missing link? Please dude. We play the Falcons, Saints and Panthers twice a season each. Our nickel corner will see as much action as the SAM backer in those games.

  9. Freemanbomb5 Says:

    All hail King Sander Philipsi. BucsNation has taken some rather cheap shots towards this site in the past, but I prefer this kind of blog to the bucsnation.

    I do feel in the long run whats best for the Bucs is probably to give Clayborn and Bowers the chance to prove worthy of their high draft picks. If we never let them play full time we’l truly never know just how strong of picks they were. Coming out of the draft I was super high on Bowers, possibly even more so then Clayborn. Five to eight seasons of present and future are more important then one more season of splitting snaps.

    Unless there is an injury of course, I’d stay clear of Abraham also. Now I could certainly get behind signing Nick Barnett or Desmond Bishop to fill a starting linebacker position.

  10. BucsRokk26 Says:

    I’m not as in an uproar as some on this matter. If you saw what B. Cox did last year coaching up Q. Black then maybe he sees something in Watson that we don’t. Watson has shown flashes and if the coaches believe in him, he deserves his shot. I don’t know why everyone wants J. Abraham? At 35 he is washed up and asking way too much money. I do agree we need more depth on the DL thou. Yes, our DEs are unproven, but if they stay healthy, I think the gamble pays off like it did with GMC. That said there are two free agents that would add quality veteran leadership and depth. At 32, Israel Idonije would be a good roll player at DE, is a good fit in the 4-3, and probably can be had on the cheap. R. Seymour will be 34 this fall and may want too much money, but if we can get him for the right price, he would be a hellava addition to the DT rotation.

  11. BuccFanInHawkeyeCountry Says:

    I still say we should go get Idonije. Or somehow get Richard Seymore so Atl can’t

  12. Illuminati Says:

    If the SAM linebacker is so unimportant, it should be pretty easy for a guy to establish himself as the starter.

    And yet, nobody has. That should be a huge red flag.

    We already whiffed on the best possible solution by watching the Ravens sign Daryl Smith. Let’s get Desmond Bishop.

    Again, if the position is so unimportant, why not look at it as a wildcard, a free pass to throw another playmaker on the field.

  13. Meh Says:

    What Belgium based blogger? I don’t know of a belgium based Bucs blogger.

    It isn’t even a 3 down position in this defense, and we did almost nothing to upgrade it when Black left. Unimportant? No way. Less important? Yep. By a mile.

  14. The 300s Says:

    Thanks for putting words in my mouth Joe. I never said the SAM linebacker is unimportant. I said you don’t need a superstar, high draft pick, high salary guy to play that position in this defense. You need a technically sound player that knows the position and is a major contributor on special teams.

    Other positions that do not require these players on this team: NT (which you went and got all upset about when Roy Miller left but now understand), TE (again which you have come up and supported now), RT (how many Pro Bowlers can you have on a line?), and FB (Eric Lorig is not Alstott).

    I can’t argue why we have not spent the cap money we have available and that should be the topic of discussion. Especially as to how it relates to our depth at critical positions (not SAM linebacker sorry Joe).

  15. Kalind Says:

    Well said, Joe!

    I cant believe you get so much hate and nonsense about this SAM linebacker position. People who think that are…some word worse than stupid.

    As for the Pass Rush, Kirwan needs to get off the Abraham train. Everyone else has. Ev-er-y- One. And i think the Bucs want to know what they have ion Bowers and Clayborn. If they work, great, but if they dont they need to address it. If Abraham (who doesnt have much time left anyway) is stealing snaps from the younger guys (whose contracts will be coming up soon) thats counter productive to their development

  16. Illuminati Says:

    This is why it’s so hard to be a Bucs fan sometimes. Event the fan base has a loser mentality.

    “Gee, that position isn’t really important.”

    Here’s a clue, losers: Winning teams take advantage of any and every opportunity to put playmakers on the field.

  17. T in Orlando Says:

    For those who want a playmaker at the SAM, please familiarize yourself with the term Role Player; a smart, not flashy player, who has sound technique and is disciplined in their responsibilities. This allows the playmakers on the team to gamble when appropriate, since they know the role players will be where they’re supposed to be.

    Think about this, if you had a secondary of Revis, Ed Reed, Troy Palomalu and Nmandi Asomuagh (in their primes), sounds great, however given each of their tendencies to take a chance to make a play, you may have a secondary that sets a record for most INTs, but also one that set a record for most TDs of 20+ yds given up. Not every player can be a “playmaker” even if they have the skill to do so.

    Role Players are important to any scheme, however they’re typically a little easier to find than the playmakers.

    Understanding the need for Role Players doesn’t make someone a loser. It actually shows the understanding that putting together a great Team Defense doesn’t require a Pro-Bowler at every position.

  18. Tiny tim Says:

    @ Joe Get over it!!! You are wrong. Stop trying to slant the words and meanings of poster’s viewpoint. Yes the SAM is important, just not 5 mil a year important. If you or Kirwan or whoever do not like Watson as the SAM, so be it, but making it seems as if it is imperative the bucs bring a pro bowler for that position is crazy.

    I have stated this 3 times before and I will state it again. Under Dungy, Gruden the bucs had many SAMS and none of them were household names. They were serviceable and they did their jobs. To say, Watson or Casillias are not capable and we have not even put on pads is moronic. Stop it. You are wrong!!! Black’s critique by the fans had much more to do with Dom paying this guy more than Derrick Brooks ever made as oppose to his play.

    News flash, saying that Black was coached up last year or that he was having a good year means nothing. He was still drastically over paid and his so called good year production mirrored what a “serviceable SAM” will look like. That’s all this team needs minus the big pay day. Got it? Probably not.

  19. Illuminati Says:

    Yeah, I guess it would have been a huge mistake to sign Daryl Smith, an absolute beast against the run, a good pass rusher, the Jaguars’ all-time leading tackler, a guy with sideline-to-sideline range, a high-character guy, a guy who can play every linebacker position and play it well.

    Much better to stand by and watch the Ravens, current Super Bowl champs, a team that hasn’t had a losing season in six years, sign him to a paltry $1.13 million one-year deal.

    Meanwhile, we’re still like $19 million under the cap and can’t seem to find a starter at the SAM position.

    Brilliant, though, because apparently SAM linebacker doesn’t matter in our world-class, powerhouse, hasn’t finished better than third in our division in six years defense.

  20. T in Orlando Says:

    Daryl Smith, a beast against the run, a good pass rusher, blah-blah-blah.

    The current facts about Smith, he played in two games last year, missed the other 14 to a groin injury, he was not resigned by the Jags (says something if a team let their career leading tackler walk out the door), and he’s on the wrong side of 30 (when was the last time this team brought in a player over 30?). All this adds up to a player the Bucs would very likely never sign.

    Can people just accept, that barring injury, the Bucs are not likely to sign any more veteran players, particularly at a position (LB) that has seen a lot of draft picks invested in it the past few years.

  21. You Go Joe Says:

    Hey Joe why are you trying to prove your point through your website and by persuading us. You had a twitter battle with bucs nation on a LAME topic. Especially on a position that is not that valuable. Just saying this article of SAM linebacker just not interesting. Its turning into a who’s website better war.

  22. MadMax Says:

    I like both this site and Bucsnation. I’ve never seen Sander dis on this site, some members there, yes, but not Sander. Anyways, he keeps it pretty clean and civil over there. He also gives Joe credit to stories and provides links back to this site.

    “Morning cup of Joe” and the fact that he’s able to be out there at One Buc is the reason Im a fan…plus it gets a little nasty here sometimes, lol. I like that.

  23. Fatmosh Says:

    Joe: You are wrong. The scheme de-emphasizes the player, just like the Bucs Tampa 2 from a decade ago.

    “Not important vs. not a priority” is just semantics, the SAM position is the 12th most important on our D, akin to the FB on offense.

  24. Illuminati Says:

    @ T in Orlando

    Smith didn’t re-up with the Jags because he wanted top money, and they were not going to give him top money.

    No one is going to sign a plus-30-year-old LB for top dollar. However, once he came to grips with that reality, he was available at a bargain price.

    I wouldn’t have wanted us to sign him for big money, either, but a one-year deal for a little over a $1 million for a player of his caliber seems pretty reasonable to me.

    Of course, none of us really know what’s going on behind the scenes. For all we know, we may have made a run at him, and he simply chose to sign with the Ravens.

  25. fatmosh Says:

    Wow, my post got deleted, just because I don’t agree with Joe?

    Joe, you’re getting fishier and fishier…

  26. fatmosh Says:

    Nevermind…now it’s back. Odd…

  27. FLBoyInDallas Says:

    Wow…Bucs fans are some of the most thick-headed around. You really believe they’re going to push Bowers or Clayborn to the bench in favor of a veteran? Really? If you do, you need a hearing checkup because you haven’t been listening to what Dominik and Schiano have been saying all offseason long.

    The only way you develop these high draft picks is to give them as many snaps as possible. Otherwise they never reach their potential. The Bucs are committed to developing their young players. Both Bowers’ and Clayborn’s ceilings are FAR higher than Abraham’s at this stage. Taking away developmental reps from your potential stars in favor of an over-the-hill DE who doesn’t fit your locker room and knows nothing about your defense is the epitome of stupidity.

    Not gonna happen. Period. Moving on.

  28. Joe Says:

    Joe: You are wrong. The scheme de-emphasizes the player, just like the Bucs Tampa 2 from a decade ago.

    “Not important vs. not a priority” is just semantics, the SAM position is the 12th most important on our D, akin to the FB on offense.

    OK, put a high school kid out there to play it. Watch what happens and then try to tell Joe SAM is still unimportant.

  29. BigSombrero Says:

    No one is saying that while on the field, the SAM is unimportant. Its that the Sam position is getting less play time in the NFL due to teams putting more CB’s on the field and usually the traditional Sam is the lb that is taken out of the game for those extra CB’s.

  30. PRBucFan Says:

    I think y’all are arguing semantics really.

    I don’t think the fact the the SAM position is necessary was ever argued but more that the weight placed on the particular position in this type of system is less than in other systems.

    And that’s fairly true.

  31. Tiny Tim Says:

    There you go again Joe!!! Talking about putting a high school player out there and seeing what happens. No one said put a high school player out there but you. We are saying put a rufus porter, ryan neece, jeff gooch, adam hayward out there and your defense will be fine. These players were and are “serviceable.” Thats all you need. Let me know when this viewpoint sinks in.

  32. kh Says:

    agree tiny tim – its ridiculously annoying when Joe has no shade of gray, just black or white. Hayward, Watson, Casillas or Goode will be fine at SAM.

    The fact that Barnett hasn’t signed for anyone speaks volumes. It’s been 30 years since Kirwan was fired from the NFL so his opinions about signing [insert aging retread here] aren’t worth a hill of beans.

  33. kh Says:

    Not to mention that signing aging retreads goes against everything that Dominik believes in about scouting, drafting & developing talent. Agree as was said about if Cox could coach up Black in your words Joe, why can’t he coach up any of the above if given an entire offseason to do it!?!

  34. loung Says:

    bower and clayborn this year to be good no problem

  35. loung Says:

    super bowl contender ……. best of the best

  36. Fatmosh Says:

    Man Joe, got a bit of a thick skull…

    I said the SAM was the 12th most important player on the defense.

    Gooch, Singleton, Nece, June…those players are the Bucs SAM during their dominant days. All recyclable players, none of which played the position for more than a couple years.

    In other words, not a priority…not important.