Jeremiah Trotter did not wear out his welcome in Philadelphia. The Eagles simply believed that a younger Omar Gaither could play the middle better than him. After 10 years, Trotter, like many veterans, run into that.
By coming to Tampa Bay, Trotter is repeating the same move he made to resurrect his career in 2004, when he returned to Philadelphia after a two-year stint in Washington. Trotter signed a one-year deal, started on special teams and by midseason had his starting job back in the middle. He was vital to the Eagles' run to the Super Bowl that year. The Eagles had an anemic run defense — actually it was flat out awful — until they inserted Trotter in the lineup.
That is Trotter's reputation — a run stuffer. I asked Scout.com's personnel expert Tom Marino to evaluate Trotter, and that's exactly what he said.
"He is a veteran inside guy who was a very solid player with the Eagles," Marino said. "He will bring leadership to the Bucs' overall defense. He has always been an inside run stopper (a take on guy). He has know-how, but is basically a first down LB who will be replaced in their sub packages."
That will be Trotter's greatest strength — and weakness — in Tampa Bay. The Buccaneer run defense was average last season, ranking in the middle of the NFL. That's an unusual position for the unit, which had been in the NFL's Top 10 each of the previous nine seasons.
Trotter has proven he can handle the load as a run stuffer. His 262-pound frame makes him especially durable in that position. He doesn't miss many games due to injury and he can handle just about every running back in the NFL at the point of attack.
But what makes his such an asset as a defender is what limits him as a defender in the Buccaneers' Cover 2 scheme. He is not a pass-friendly linebacker. He's not quick enough in coverage because of his frame. He may be able to take on tight ends, but running backs will scoot right by him. Coverage is a critical part of the Cover 2, especially for the middle linebacker, who has to cover those very players in short and medium routes in the middle of the field. There's a good chance Trotter won't be able to do that.
So what do you do with him? If Barrett Ruud is your starter it's likely the Bucs won't sub him out on first down, even for Trotter, unless Ruud struggles early this season. If Ruud struggles in coverage, it's doubtful Trotter can help.
Trotter is in Tampa Bay for the reasons you think. He's a veteran who knows how to play the position. He gives the organization some peace of mind in case Ruud is unable to handle the position. Remember — Ruud has just four NFL starts to his credit, and Ruud's backup before Trotter's arrival, Ryan Nece, had none at the position. So if Ruud is unable to handle the position, Trotter can at least step in and adequately handle things, once he learns the defense. He has that track record.
But for anyone expecting Trotter to be a miracle worker if he's called upon, Marino has this caution.
"I think the thought is that they lost a step and some overall quickness," Marino said. "He is in my mind a short term answer. Unless I miss my guess, he will have little in the way of impacting their defense."
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 and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.