Which five Bucs have the most to gain — and the most to lose — at training camp? Bucsblitz.com has the scoop for you in this exclusive analysis Just click here to find out who made the list.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB Derrick Brooks, MLB Barrett Ruud, SLB Cato June. Backups -- Quincy Black, Adam Hayward, Ryan Nece, Teddy Lehman, Antoine Cash, Matt McCoy
Even has he enters the twilight of his career, Brooks is still a very effective linebacker. He smartly ceded some of his playing time on passing downs to June early in the season and it kept his legs fresh for the playoff drive. He doesn’t make as many big plays as he used to, but you can pencil in 140 tackles right now.
Ruud is now the unit’s standard-bearer. He proved that last year with an incredible start to his first full season as a starter and finished it by leading the team in tackles. He’s a great run stopper and proved very capable in pass coverage. He’s probably a season or two away from his first Pro Bowl berth, and that’s only because linebackers is one of the league’s most competitive positions for the Pro Bowl.
June showed he could handle the strong side duties last year. He was much tougher at the point of attack and proved a sure tackler. He also upgraded the team’s pass coverage. His late injury took a little luster off the season, but he’s fully recovered and should produce another fine season.
The backups are a hodge-podge who haven’t been called upon to do much. Nece is the most experienced and can fill in for June in a pinch. Black and Hayward played in the final two games and showed flashes of talent. But they also showed how far they have to go, too. Lehman and McCoy are veterans that add depth. Cash was hurt all of last year and will need to impress the Bucs to earn a roster spot, given the competition.
Check out the previous articles in this series:
They were the nine biggest stories of the offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. How did the Bucs do in the magnifying glass of hindsight? Did they do the right things to attack their team needs and keep the team on the winning track? Matthew Postins of bucsblitz.com examines those storylines and their impact on the upcoming season in his exclusive group of articles:
Vol. 1 — the coaching staff.
Vol. 2 — the secondary’s future.
Vol. 3 — is Jovan Haye a future star?
Vol. 4 — the precarious state at running back.
Vol. 5 — who will eventually replace Joey Galloway?
Vol. 6 — Jon Gruden’s contract extension.
Vol. 7 — What should the Bucs do at center?
Vol. 8 — re-signing a key tight end.
Vol. 9 — assessing the return game.
We’re gearing up for training camp at Bucsblitz.com. Today we’ve posted our first Mailbag feature, with answers to questions on Greg White, Jeff Garcia and a potential breakout player. Just click here to check it out. Part 2 will include an answer on Brett Favre and be published later this week.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla.