Buccaneers defense leaning heavily on LB Geno Hayes
The Bucs like Hayes' speed, quickness and coverage ability. But the truth is, coaches don't really know what they're going to get if and when he becomes the full-time starter at weak-side linebacker. Remember, he spent half his rookie season on injured reserve.
But right now, he's the most likely to take over for Phillips, so his performance in tonight's preseason game will be one of the things to watch.
With the starting lineups perhaps playing into the second half, Hayes will be tested. The Bucs are hoping he shows them he's willing to mix it up at the line of scrimmage because that's where there are doubts about his game. Hayes is undersized. He is listed at 226 pounds, but that feels like a stretch when you see him up close. But then again, Derrick Brooks -- Hayes' mentor and a fellow Seminole -- was always on the lighter side, too.
Still, no one is ready to say Hayes has Brooks' fearless mentality.
Hayes is "blessed with the burst that he has and he can really run," defensive coordinator Jim Bates said. "It's going to be (about) how fast does he diagnose the run-pass reads and taking on a lineman, taking on the fullback? The running game is where he's going to show his improvement."
The weak-side linebacker is counted on to be a playmaker in the defense. So, Hayes has to be up to the task if this defense is going to be any good. Maybe we'll have a better idea about the situation by the end of the night.
-- Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer