The Buccaneers are on the cusp of becoming a legitimate contender again. One thing they’re lacking is leadership.
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Before everyone freaks out, no, this is not about Jameis Winston. We know he’s a leader, we’ve seen he’s a leader. However, after him, who is there? Jameis can’t be the voice on defense.
We know how good Gerald McCoy and Lavonte David are on the field. They’re pro bowlers, they were named to the NFL’s Top 100 as voted on by players. They are two of the best at their position in the league. But when it comes to being the vocal leaders, the guys that get you fired up, that’s just not them. It’s not in their personality, their DNA. They’re the quiet, lead by example types, like Derrick Brooks. Brooks was never gonna yell and scream and get in your face. He was going to show you how hard he worked to perfect his craft and expect you to follow his lead.
This defense needs a Warren Sapp.
They need nasty, they need “in your face”, they need a kick in the pants from someone to get them to the level we know they can reach. But who is going to step up and fill that role?
We saw flashes, glimpses of that kind of leader from Kwon Alexander last season. However, it’s hard to expect a second year player to step up in that kind of role, especially since Alexander wasn’t exactly a polished product and suffered a four game suspension to end his rookie season for violating the substance abuse policy. Remember, Winston is the exception, not the rule.
So we look at a guy like Robert Ayers. New kid on the block, but he brings the veteran experience, playoff experience, and knowledge to the team that was lacking in areas. Ayers brings an honesty that some of us find rather amusing, like when he said the Bucs were “a little less terrible” than the start of OTA’s. But that’s the kind of thing you look for. Don’t sit there and sugar coat things, make it seem like everything is rainbows and unicorns when it’s really a disaster. Call it like it is, call out your teammates that aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. That’s how you get better, build your teammates up, and succeed.
Another player to look for is Brent Grimes. He’s been one of the best corners in football as long as he’s been around. Not nearly as outspoken as his wife Miko, but Brent is going to build this secondary up to the level it needs to be. He understands what it takes for him to be successful. He is a perfectionist, and to get that kind of mindset, that motivation into the secondary will turn that group around in a hurry. Grimes was one of the best off-season acquisitions, not only for the Bucs, but in the NFL, yet no one is talking about it. Chalk that up as another slap in the face of one of the best corners in the league.
Some may say Noah Spence can become that guy, but he’s cut from the same cloth as McCoy and David. If it was going to be one of the young guys, it’s going to be Kwon, Vernon Hargreaves, or both. Grimes and Ayers aren’t going to be here long term. They’re aging veterans who are here to help right the ship. The confidence that exudes from Hargreaves is something that can, and likely will, spill over into other parts of this team. Hargreaves is an extremely talented, borderline cocky player that is going to inevitably take his rookie lumps. That doesn’t mean he can’t develop into a leader.
The Buccaneers are close. We can see it. We can feel it. I mean, how long has it been since Bucs fans were generally this excited about a season? This optimistic? It’s been a while, but we know they’re just a few pieces, and a big voice, away.