During Buccaneers Total Access on Tuesday evening, Buccaneers cornerback Ronde Barber discussed the play of starting linebackers Quincy Black and Geno Hayes. Barber talked about the progression of both players throughout the season and the promising future that is ahead for these young defenders.
Black, 25, was inserted into the starting lineup after the team released veteran linebacker Cato June in the offseason. Black is currently fifth on the team in tackles with 78 on the season and has also recorded 1.5 sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble in his first season as a starter.
"Quincy's getting a chance to do a lot of different things for us right now," Barber said. "He's our Sam [linebacker]. I think we've officially changed our terminology back to what it was before because our old Sam was our new Will [linebacker] and vice versa and it was just confusing. He's a Sam, so he's only a part time player. If [the opposing team] comes out with five [wide receivers], he's off the field."
Since Bucs head coach Raheem Morris has taken over the defensive play calling responsibilities, he has done a good job of adjusting Black's role on defense to fit his strengths as a player, according to Barber.
"We're giving him some chances to not have to play in space so much, really get after the line of scrimmage, and cover tight ends in some of our man defenses," said Barber. "When we have a 3-4 look that Raheem is playing with, he gets to be a rush end so Quincy is being used now like Quincy should be used. He's a big, strong, athletic guy and he needs to be on the field creating havoc. I think Raheem recognizes that and he's giving him an opportunity to do it."
After the team let go of future Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks in the offseason, Geno Hayes has taken over the role of Will linebacker that Brooks made famous in the Tampa 2 defense. Barber talked about how Hayes has been doing in his quest to follow in the legend's footsteps.
"If you're looking for a comparison, [Hayes] should be like Derrick and that's the position he's playing," said Barber. "Obviously Derrick was the best instinctive player I've ever been around and Geno has a ways to go before he turns into that, but that's what he's doing. He's a guy that should make all the plays in the open field and passing game. He has some defined run fits where he can just go in and shoot gaps and make tackles in the backfield, which he's learning to do. [The type of game he had against the Seahawks] are the games we used to see out of Derrick and we should expect those out of Geno too."
Hayes, 22, is only in his second season as a Buccaneer and had limited playing time during his rookie campaign after being placed on IR in November of 2008.
"Geno's had some splash plays and some great moments this year for us, but he's also had some knucklehead moments," said Barber. "Raheem always tells me, ‘Geno should be a senior in college. He should be a senior at Florida State right now.' He left early and he's only  years old. He's the youngest player on our defense, I believe, so he has a long way to go still and a learning curve that he needs to climb up before he becomes that Derrick Brooks type. I'm not saying that he won't because I think he will. I think he has as much talent as Derrick."
Hayes has totaled 113 tackles with 10 of them for a loss of yards, one sack, two interceptions, and seven passes defended. As the season progressed, Hayes has continued to improve his play on defense and is on the right path to establishing himself as a very solid linebacker in this league.
"His body movement is stellar and not many guys can move like Geno can," said Barber. "When he gets his above-the-neck game to the point where Derrick's was, it's going to be something special. He's got a long way to go to fill Derrick's shoes. Fifty-five was about as special at that position as you can ever be. He's a unanimous player of the decade kind of guy so it's asking a lot of Geno, but he definitely has the potential to be that guy. He's just got to fill in all the blanks to fill out what Derrick had on his résumé, and Geno can do that. He's just got to spend time at it, learn to perfect his craft, learn to be a professional even more than he is, and then he'll be on his way to greatness."