Tampa Bay linebacker Geno Hayes is confident that he will become a more consistent defender, and that the Bucs defense will continue to improve. Despite the lockout, Hayes feels he is ready for the 2011 season due to a conditioning regimen and offseason film study.
Buccaneers linebacker Geno Hayes held back little in his enthusiasm about returning to football Tuesday during a press conference at One Buc Place. After suffering through the 132-day lockout, Hayes boldly predicted he, along with the Tampa Bay defense, will be even better than the 2010 versions. The Bucs defense finished last season ranked 17th in the NFL in total defense (332.7 ypg), 28th against the run (131.7 ypg) and seventh against the pass (201 ypg).
“Do I think we will be a good defense?” Hayes said. “I know it will be a good defense. We have young guys who are anxious, who are hungry. We have a great coordinator, great play-caller, and the scheme; everybody is going to buy into real fast. It’s not that hard, all you have to do is sit down and read and understand the scheme. I know with the guys we added through the draft we are going to be a great defense. All we have to do is work hard.”
The 6-1, 232-pound starting weakside linebacker spent the past six months working out anticipating the doors to One Buc Place re-opening.
“[My] offseason went well,” Hayes said. “Did a lot of working out, gained some weight, and pretty much watched a lot of film that I had. So it went well for me.
“Usually, I just ran four miles, then got on the bike four miles. I worked out two times every other day. That’s just the basic thing I did the whole offseason. I gained about five extra pounds.”
While the former Seminole played well for the most part, notching 104 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, four sacks, one INT and one forced fumble, Hayes knows his game can improve and used the long holdout to identify aspects of his play he and coaches would like to see improved.
“More consistent play,” said Hayes, whose tackle total dropped off dramatically from 2009 when he recorded a career-high 136 stops. “I always want to work on my techniques, getting off more blocks, making more tackles, and better off in understanding down and distance – and the different things they do as an offense. Those are the major things I watched tape on and critiqued myself on.’’
The April draft saw the Buccaneers add some potential star players in defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Da’Quan Bowers as well as linebacker Mason Foster, and with it, Hayes is feeling better about the overall talent on Tampa Bay’s defense.
“It is music to the linebackers’ ears, it is music to the DBs’ ears,” Hayes said. “You don’t have to do as much blitzing to get a lot of pressure from the front four. So if those guys go out and do what they can do, it will be better for the whole defense.”
Hayes, who had four sacks in his third season, would love more opportunities to attack the signal caller on blitzes.
“Hopefully I can, if Raheem (Morris) sees that I can and puts it into the scheme,” Hayes said. “We got guys like Mason Foster, he is good at blitzing, too, as well as Dakota Watson. He may put in a couple packages for them. So whatever works as far as blitzing is good with me.”
Hayes is unsure how the compressed free-agency period will take shape, especially at the linebacker position where starters Barrett Ruud and Quincy Black and reserves Adam Hayward and Niko Koutouvides are all unrestricted free agents, but feels the team is in good hands with general manager Mark Dominik.
“I’m excited. We have nothing but faith in him,’’ Hayes said of Dominik. “He’s a guy who doesn’t go off what people say. He’s a guy who goes off what he feels and what he knows. He is one of the good G.M.s in the league right now. It is good to see him in the position to find (players) to get those 16 wins if we can get them. So hopefully he can do what he does best.”
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