Bucs Lack Defensive Leadership

Since Derrick Brooks left the Bucs have lacked defensive leadership.
Since Derrick Brooks left the Bucs have lacked defensive leadership. /
Since Brooks left, the Bucs have lacker leadership on D.
Since Brooks left, the Bucs have lacker leadership on D. /

On offense, the Buccaneers have no shortage of leadership. Players like Davin Joseph and Cadillac Williams can quietly shoulder a part of the load and help the whole offensive unit to develop and grow, but when the going gets tough it’s Josh Freeman that the team looks to.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, that’s what you expect as a coach or even a fan. On each side of the ball you need to have “the guy.” There are no doubts with Freeman, for instance. He’s proven it with his play on the field, in leading the Bucs to comeback after comeback, and with his work ethic off the field. This off-season, Freeman’s own personal progression has been well-detailed. But keep in mind that it was also Freeman that got on the phone and told Mike Williams and Arrelious Benn to get down to Tampa so they could get started building rhythm and chemistry.

You need a guy like that, someone to unite and motivate the team. The Bucs are lucky to have that guy on offense, on defense though. That’s another story. When Derrick Brooks left the Buccaneers he took with him a degree of leadership that truly can’t be quantified. These Bucs defenses have always had fiery leaders, men of character and passion like John Lynch and Brooks, Warren Sapp even older guys like Hardy Nickerson. Today, outside of Ronde Barber, I don’t see any leadership on the Bucs defense.

Now I’m not picking on Ronde, he is a leader. You can see Ronde Barber become a coach every time he heads over to the sideline. It’s endearing, you can see him with the visor on and his tongue pressed into his cheek as he analyzes game photos and helps to make adjustments. But he’s not a rah-rah guy. His type of leadership works fine for the secondary but it’s not what you need to lead a whole defensive unit. Barrett Ruud is apparently the same way, neither of these guys is going to call another player out or get in somebody’s face.

That’s a problem though, because it now seems more and more like there is an issue beginning to surface with some of the Buccaneer defenders’ work ethics. According to Ryan Nece and WHBO 1040 AM, he recently discussed the Bucs’ defensive youth movement with Michael Spurlock and was told:

"…that, in short, some of the rookies seem to think they are still in college when it comes to preparation, that the week of film study and working out in the week preceding an NFL game is a different animal than the week leading up to a college game, and the rookies are still learning. (Per JoeBucsFan)"

This is extremely problematic, not because the rookies need to grow up, I’m sure that’s a pretty regular NFL occurence, but because nobody on the Bucs is nipping this in the bud. It’s obvious, based on those comments, that the Bucs lack true leadership in their locker-room. It doesn’t have to come from a ten-year NFL vet but there needs to be someone to stand up and call some of the guys out.  Heck, maybe it’s going to have to come from an offensive guy. But you’d like to think someone on the defense would have a little pride and tell the guys they needed to step up their film study and get with the program.

I said earlier I think it may be time for Barrett Ruud to go. The middle linebacker is usually a guy the defense can look to for inspiration and leadership. I doubt a guy like Ray Lewis would put up with any slacking.

I’m not in love with Ruud’s production to begin with, he struggles to get off blocks, he struggles to cover and he’s not a leader. Some of those problems can be attributed to his supporting cast, but the lack of leadership is the biggest issue. The Bucs need to find a defensive leader fast.

And in the meantime, it’s time for the coaching staff to step in and get on top of a few of these guys. The offense is progressing well. The defense isn’t coming along at near the same pace.