Bucs Training Camp Preview — Linebackers

BucsBlitz.com's countdown to training camp continues today, with a preview of the Buccaneers' linebackers. Each day BucsBlitz.com will break down a different position — including expert Matthew Postins' roster predictions — leading up to reporting day in Orlando on July 26.


LINEBACKERS: Derrick Brooks (starting weak side), Barrett Ruud (starting middle), Cato June or Ryan Nece (starting strong side), Evan Benjamin, Quincy Black, Antoine Cash, Adam Hayward, Sam Olajabutu, Jamie Winborn.

Brooks is 34 and not the player he was three years ago, but he still led the Bucs in tackles last year. He can provide above average player every Sunday, and the occasional Brooks performance of old.

Ruud is a full-time starter for the first time. He's been solid in fill-in duty, but now he'll have to prove he can handle the role without anyone looking over his shoulder. He's great against the run, but sometimes struggles when he has to suddenly change directions.

SLB will be one of the big battles of training camp. June (6-foot, 227 pounds) is more suited to the weak side, but with Brooks there the Bucs are looking for a place to put June. His strength is as a versatile sideline-to-sideline playmaker. Nece (6-3, 224) has played SLB the past two years and would seem physically more suited to take on the running backs and tight ends most SLBs take on. But his play the past two years has been solid, and the Bucs obviously feel June might be an upgrade in some areas.

Benjamin is a first-year player hoping to make the Bucs through special teams.

Black, a third-round pick, may already qualify as the Bucs' fastest defensive player. Tampa Bay sees a future role for him as a starter and began working him at both SLB and WLB. He has a 42-inch vertical leap and 4.4 speed. He can definitely be a special teams dynamo this season.

Cash is entering his second season with the Bucs and may be hard-pressed to keep his job. His only contributions during that time have been on special team, though his 17 ST tackles were fourth on the team in 2006.

Hayward, a fifth-round pick, is in a similar position to Black. Seen as a long-term prospect, he's well regarded because he played four different positions in college and has enough speed to play at safety, should the need arise. He played outside linebacker in college.

Sam Olajabutu signed as an undrafted free agent. At one point he was projected as a fifth-round pick. He's small (just 5-9), but scouts consider him very athletic and a possible special teams contributor.

Winborn is a wily veteran in his second year in Tampa Bay. He made six tackles from scrimmage in 2006, but 14 special teams tackles. He may become a victim of the defense's youth movement.

Postins' predictions: Brooks, Ruud, June, Nece, Black, Winborn, Hayward.

Click here to go to the next article in the series: Secondary

Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association. Included among his more than two dozen writing and editing awards are national awards from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors, and state awards from the Florida Press Club and the Florida Sports Writers Association, for his coverage of the Buccaneers since 2004.


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