Bucs 2010 Linebackers Preview

THE STARTERS:

Weakside linebacker Geno Hayes made his impact felt in two of the three wins. He had a sack in the New Orleans win and a sack and an interception in the Seattle win. He still needs to do a better job in traffic but he is a throwback Buc (‘90s not 70’s).

Middle linebacker Barrett Ruud is considered the star of this class, but some in the media have debated whether this is based on true difference-making ability or on his gaudy tackling numbers. Whether or not he is completely justified in his anger over his contract, the important thing is that the middle linebacker, considered crucial in the cover 2, for the Bucs is on the field and not holding out.

Strongside linebacker Quincy Black moved from Special Teams, where he led the Bucs in 2008 with 24 tackles, to a starting role last season. Unspectacular and part of a bad run defense, he will probably receive a challenge during camp and preseason.

THE CONTENDERS:

Lee Robinson, from Steve McNair’s alma matter Alcorn St. He has good instincts, closing speed, can hold up a pulling guard and has pass-rushing ability. He was a multi-sport athlete in high school and also covered tight ends and backs well at the 2009 Texas vs. The Nation game.

Niko Koutouvides returns to be a force on the coverage units. With just one career sack and one documented pass defensed, this guy is an ace special teamer but unlikely to challenge for a starting spot.

Undrafted rookie Rico McCoy, undersized but very speedy, was a second-team All-SEC player his senior year at Tennessee, when he forced six fumbles. Good range, hips and lateral movement. He played some running back in high school . Given that he was the only other linebacker added in the draft, he might have a decent shot of making this team or, at least, the practice squad.

Adam Hayward is a speedy player with 38 of his 63 career total tackles on special teams.

7th round rookie Dekoda Watson, Hayes’ Seminole (CHOP ‘EM!) teammate is considered a high-motor guy who will play through injuries and can play inside and outside. He reads and reacts well, can shoot the gap and pass rush but didn’t show the agility to guard receiving backs.

ANALYSIS:

Essentially, the Cover 2 thrives on rangy linebackers who are sometimes asked to cover a relatively large part of the field in some pass plays. While the defense got a lot better last year when they moved back to a Cover 2, it’s likely that Ruud and maybe Hayes were the only ones whose play was so solid that they are guaranteed starting jobs. They are young, though, so that could play into their favor. They need linebackers that attack in the run game. They can’t expect the additions at defensive tackle to be sufficient in helping a run defense that allowed 124+ rushing yards 12 times and 170+ 8 times. The Bucs defense forced a lot of turnovers last season but lost three of the five games that they won the turnover battle in. Hayes and Black will be tested early as the Cribbs Wildcat in Cleveland week 1 thrives on misdirection and Cribbs’ ability to reverse field and side-step defenders. Harrison and Hardesty are a young tandem that will test the defense as a whole. Morris and fans alike would love to see this LB corps usher in a new era of dominance reminiscent of the playmaking and swagger of previous Buccaneer glories. I give this unit a C+ at the beginning of training camp, with considerable upside.


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