The Strongside Linebacker Quandary

July 24th, 2013

So the Bucs report to camp this morning and hit the practice fields tomorrow. In essence, the football season is upon us. With the possible exception cornerback and defensive tackle, where rookies Akeem Spence and Johnthan Banks are expected to start unless they completely meltdown in training camp and preseason, there really is but one defensive position that is sort of wide open.

The notorious strongside linebacker position.

Now Dekoda Watson, a superior special teams player, seems to be the favorite to win the position. It appears the job is Watson’s to lose, so writes Stephen Holder of the Tampa Bay Times.

The third linebacker in a 4-3 defense is becoming a less-prominent role. But the Bucs have an opening at strong-side linebacker, a role that is critical on early downs, particularly against the run and short passing routes.

Fourth-year veteran Dekoda Watson is expected to get a chance to show he’s ready to take the next step in his career, getting the first crack to replace injured Quincy Black. “It’s early right now,” said Watson, who has started three games in three seasons. “I’m not going to sit here and say that I’ve got the position or anything. All I’m saying is that I have the opportunity.”

But Watson must hold off another young, hungry player, Jonathan Casillas. A free-agent pickup from the Saints, Casillas is a formidable foe. He feels he could be a fit.

Joe asked Bucs types the past week or so about this position and while Joe was told strongside linebacker in the Bucs defense may not be the most vital position in the Bucs defense, Joe was quickly told it’s not like they can throw a slug out there and win games.

Last year, Quincy Black finally began living up to his contract (imagine what coaching can do for a player?) until the injury and nerve damage in his shoulder and neck area likely ended his career. Joe doesn’t believe in coincidences. Middle linebacker Mason Foster, who Joe thought may have been eating February pineapple with his play in September, began to fade late in the season. One reason, Joe believes, was because the Bucs didn’t have anyone remotely worthy to fill Black’s void.

When a bad player is on the field, he tends to drag others around him down.

It’s a good thing that Casillas is pushing Watson. This might give Bucs fans reason to relax; Watson is so rocked up he looks like he could do TV ads for exercise equipment. Watson certainly looks the part of an NFL linebacker.

10 Responses to “The Strongside Linebacker Quandary”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Watson is a stud….and a thumper!!! I hope he wins because he has paid his dues as a “Buccaneer Man”.

  2. Buc'n Junkie Says:

    ^^^spot on!

  3. BucDan Says:

    I am rooting for this guy to be on the field more often. He is a playmaker on ST and if memory serves me right, a sure tackler, which Schiano loves.

    I was happy with the Casillas pick for the same reason. Both guys seem to have the motor and heart to make plays on the field.

  4. ElioT Says:

    Watson has all the physical tools one could want in a SLB. If he’s put in the mental work as well he should be fine.

    What a great day!!!

    Go Bucs!!!!!

  5. The 300s Says:

    Good to see Stephen Holder finally got you to change your tune Joe. Nobody is saying that any position should be filled with a “slug”. But rather a technically sound football player (Adam Hayward you were hating on at the time) that isn’t necessarily a super star or pro bowl caliber player.

  6. Biff Barker Says:

    @ tbf
    Not overly excited. He really couldn’t displace Black when he was playing awful. How much of that was Quincy’s contract is unknown, but the question is could Watson start for 10 NFL teams?
    I think not.

  7. Biff Barker Says:

    @ 300
    Holder didn’t change anyone’s mind. There is valid reason for concern.
    None of the 3 candidates has ever been able to crack a starting lineup.
    Feel giddy if so inclined…

  8. The 300s Says:

    @ Biff
    Did we sign a pro bowler to be our nickel corner? What about a pro bowl caliber fullback? Perhaps a pro bowl TE? No? There is a reason for that. None of these players play a prominent role in the system the Bucs run. You go ahead and overpay (with a finite amount of money due to salary cap) for a part time player. I would prefer to use that money to sign…… what for it….. MIKE WILLIAMS!!!!!!! So yes I will feel giddy we are not overpaying (like we did with Quincy Black) for a SLB. Despite what Joe wants. Besides we did pretty well against the run last year with those said non starters (run plays are what the SLB is judged on).

  9. Biff Barker Says:

    @ 300
    Never said we needed a big buck pineapple chewer at SLB or elsewhere. So no disagreement there. I merely stated we have 3 veterans who have never cracked a starting lineup.
    Not being belligerent, just won’t be doing handstands till one of these guys can prove himself.
    I’m thinking its Watson and I wish him similar fortune to Jeff Gooch.

  10. The 300s Says:

    @ Biff
    Now that I can agree with! Although Watsooooooooooon doesn’t sound nearly as cool as Goooooooooch after a tackle.