When you think of linebackers that have played for the Buccaneers, the first name that should come to mind is Derrick Brooks. He was one of the best of all time, and left big shoes to fill when the team cut him years ago.
Tampa Bay’s next star linebacker might be Quincy Black. He was selected in the third round of the 2007 draft, and inserted into the starting lineup in 2009 as the strong side linebacker. After a rough start to that season, he picked up his play and then advanced it even further in 2010.
The Buccaneers played surprisingly well in 2010, despite their inexperience and a roster full of unprovens. Part of that success was due to a few key players stepping up on defense, but none were as well-rounded in their performance as their Secret Superstar, Quincy Black.
Ready for the Run
When the Buccaneers had problems on defense, they were often tied to issues with stopping the run. The defensive line struggled, and the best known current linebacker, Barrett Ruud, did too. The member of the their defensive front with the best 2010 rating in Run D was Black, despite missing five games and only seeing 60-80% of the snaps when he did play.
One of his best games came against the Bengals in Week 5 where twice he made good plays against Nate Livings that led to stops and he added a third stop on a cleanup tackle. In Week 9 against Atlanta, he also made plays with two tackles for short gains early in the game. In his 11 games played, he collected 14 tackles that held the opposition to either short gains, no gains, or losses.
While those numbers might not sound overly impressive, he bolsters them by not making the bad plays that often torment linebackers. He missed just one tackle on the 279 run plays he was in on, and was flagged for only one penalty. His run stopping skills might not place him among the best linebackers in the NFL, but they put him at the top on his team.
A Player Against the Pass
The Buccaneers’ outside linebackers were, in general, good in coverage and as blitzers. Quincy Black was no exception, in fact, one of the main reasons Black stands out is his ability to make plays as a pass defender. He shined against Cleveland in Week 1, preventing their their tight ends from making catches and, in Week 14 against the Redskins, although he allowed catches to be made, he limited the receivers to short gains, generating positive plays for the Buccaneers defense.
Rushing the quarterback on 56 occasions, Black didn’t come up with big numbers for quarterback disruptions but he made guards Mackenzy Bernadeau of Carolina and Kory Lichtensteiger of Washington look bad on the two sacks he had for the season.
Of the 251 pass plays that Black was involved in, we only gave him negative ratings on 11.
His contract has expired, but it would make sense for the Buccaneers to make a serious run at keeping him in town. Black was one of only three 4-3 outside linebackers with positive ratings in run stopping, pass rush, pass coverage and penalties this season; James Anderson and Keith Bulluck being the other two.
Tampa was hit hard by injuries this past season, but with everyone healthy in 2011, they’ll have a lot of important pieces in place. Stylez White and Gerald McCoy looked good as pass rushers, Geno Hayes is a solid weak side linebacker (at least on pass downs,) and Ronde Barber and Aqib Talib (baring legal problems) are a good tandem at cornerback.
The emergence of Quincy Black in 2010 was a big part of the Buccaneers defensive success, and if they are able to bring him back, he’ll be part of a defense that continues to rise. If he leaves Tampa Bay, he’ll boost a 4-3 defense elsewhere.
For now, Black is flying under the radar, but that won’t last long.