For a few years now Buccaneers fans have been treated to the unremarkable exploits of Quincy Black. It’s not the Black isn’t a solid NFL linebacker, he is, he just isn’t a playmaker, he doesn’t pop on film.
With a high likelihood that Mason Foster and Lavonte David will be starting in the middle and on the weak-side respectively, strong-side linebacker is a position that could be up for grabs, with a number of candidates vying for starting reps. Black looks to have the inside track for both financial and experience-based reasons, but whether or not he’s the better long-term fit is far from certain.
So far in his young NFL career, Dekoda Watson has been asked to fill more of a support role, finding time on special teams and in reserve duty, but rarely getting chances to play meaningful downs in big situations. That could change with Greg Schiano and his regime of coaches though, Watson has had a chance to learn to ropes in the NFL, and now when push comes to shove with a clean slate and a coaching staff that doesn’t know anyone, Watson’s athleticism is going to make him a really intriguing player.
Watson is one of the four or five best athletes on the Buccaneers.
That’s not an exaggeration, he’s incredibly strong, he runs a 40 in the 4.4′s, he has a 40 inch vertical, he can cover and he’s proven already he can get the edge rushing the passer. How many times do you see linebackers as the gunners on punt coverage? Almost never, except for Watson.
The question isn’t what the guys vying for the role of starting strongside LB have in terms of on-the-field athleticism, Watson wins that argument, it’s whether Watson can put it together between the ears and play the kind of smart, disciplined football Greg Schiano wants.
And that remains to be seen.
At Florida State, where he was a three year starter, Watson was at times emotional and could play recklessly, he was the captain of a very undisciplined defense his senior year under Mickey Andrews. In the pros he has been coached by Raheem Morris who also ran a notoriously loose ship that featured an undisciplined, at times out of control defense. My point is, Watson may be in for a culture shock, hell, he may not even be a Schiano type player.
But if the Bucs can harness Watson’s athleticism and potential, that last upgrade at linebacker may already be on the Buccaneers roster.