Waston Evaluation In The Spotlight

July 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.


13 Responses to “Waston Evaluation In The Spotlight”

  1. Jim Walker Says:

    I bet letting him go was a hard decision. It probably came down to money and the talent behind him.

  2. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Here is a case where we simply must trust Lovie, Fraiser & Licht…Watson was a solid player and for us outsiders it seemed like he was a keeper. The key is who replaces him on the roster and how well he performs…we will see!!!

  3. biff barker Says:

    Castillas outplayed Watson last year. it’s really that simple.

  4. Bucsfanman Says:

    Agreed biff. Casillas seem to have better linebacking skills in addition to special teams. At $2 mil you can probably find a few younger guys to fill those special teams roles.
    I liked the guy. Too bad we couldn’t keep him.

  5. Hawk Says:

    And it could turn out to be a ‘Bennett’ kind of error. Every staff has some. Lovie/Licht are not going to be perfect. Or it could be as simple as Watson wanted to start and he knew he wouldn’t here(barring an injury).

  6. Couch Fan Says:

    Watson was good at special teams but the guy had years here and could never get a hold on the defense. Every year he was predicted to burst out then he went silent all year long. Maybe he needed a change of scenery, who knows.

  7. Espo Says:

    IMO his sort of special teams play is a must for any team. Hopefully we can replace him somehow.

  8. Bawlmerbucfan Says:

    Since it was made clear the other day that I didn’t correctly read a post, I will enact some grade-school like revenge….look at the title. Here comes the defensive response to my comment in 3…2….1…..

  9. BucTrooper Says:

    i thought Watson was Dominik’s best draft pick – when comparing “draft value” vs. “production.” A true diamond in the rough that was making serious strides. i don’t get it. Players like that, they give up on. Michael Clayton who couldn’t catch a cold if he was snorting anthrax off a hunting knife while sitting naked on a glacier gets $10m guaranteed.

  10. Brandon Says:

    Watson should have been let go to rush off the edge as a DE or LB on every 3rd down last season… but Schiano and Sheridan were SH==TY coaches.

  11. Bobby Says:

    who is this ‘Waston’ guy?

  12. owlykat Says:

    Watson was a good athlete but was not smart enough to hold down a starting position. Likely L & L saw that in the film and didn’t want to pay so much for a backup!

  13. Dmajik Says:

    Wasn’t the knock on Watson always mental? Could swear I read he struggled to pick up the defense and that’s what held him back his first few years from being the unquestioned SAM.

    Dude’s a freak athlete. But it sounds like what the Jags want from him will be a lot to grasp. We’ll see if those knocks were true.