Two big pieces of news today came out of One Buc Place, both involving the linebacking corps that so many people saw as depleted (I personally didn’t feel that way) after the cuts of Derrick Brooks and Cato June.
First piece of news of the day that I was aware of, was the subtle announcement by the Buccaneers that SS Jermaine “Flip” Phillips might see some time at the Will Linebacker position this season. This is actually something I mentioned as a strong possibility awhile back. With Sabby Piscatelli, Tanard Jackson and Jermaine Phillips at the safety positions, the Bucs are very deep. Situationaly, it would only make sense, especially in Jim Bates style traditional 4-3 man defense, to play some hybrid style players at the weakside linebacker position, and most of the hybrid players would generally come from the SS spot on the field.
“I’d never played linebacker before, and I told them, ‘I’ll never know how effective I’m going to be at the position or how fun it will be for me unless I try it.’ So I told them I was willing to give it a try and we’ll see how it goes. I know there’s a lot more hitting up there and I like to hit, so let’s work out and see what happens.”
“It was something that coach brought to my attention, kind of like a proposal,” recounted Phillips. “He said, ‘You can do this, and I’d like to see you try it, or you can just stay where you are.’ The way I see it, you’ll never know if you’re going to like something unless you try it. I’m willing to give it a try and go out there and work. If I can better serve the team at linebacker rather than safety, then that’s where I want to be. But if I can better serve the team at safety than linebacker, then that’s where I want to be. I just want to be where I can help the organization win. That’s the main objective, and being the team player I am, I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
I’ve always loved Flip, and comments like the last one are one of the reasons why.
The second piece of Buccaneer linebacker news of the day came with the signing of Sam Linebacker Angelo Crowell, formerly of the Buffalo Bills. The Bills were attempting to resign the unrestricted free agent but he chose to come to Tampa instead. This is a guy that, before he suffered a bad knee injury last season, looked like one of the up and coming linebackers in the league. He had 140 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and six passes defended in 2007. I know the Bills were a little irked last year that he decided to have knee surgery so close to the regular season, landing him on the IR, and maybe that had something to do with their initial lack of attempts to resign Crowell, but if he is healthy, Angelo could be a big piece of our linebacking equation.
For 4 weeks I have been listening to people saying that the linebacking corps is decimated and will be a weakness of this team. I couldn’t have disagreed more, but I also had a little foresight to foresee one of those SS playing some LB this season. That announcement, plus the addition of Angelo Crowell today via free agency, should assure the fans that the Bucs will have a formidable linebacking corps in 2009. Quincy Black and Angelo Crowell will battle for the strongside linebacker spot. Geno Hayes will most likely play the weakside spot with some certain PT from both Sabby Piscatelli and Jermaine Phillips, and Barrett Ruud will man the middle with Adam Heyward backing him up. Add in the fact that Black, Crowell, Hayes, Piscatelli and Heyward are all studs on special teams, and the position once held in the highest regard in Tampa is back.