Watson hopes for breakthrough season
Bucs linebacker Dekoda Watson always had a student-teacher relationship with former teammate Quincy Black.
So, it’s rather ironic that Black’s own career-threatening neck injury last season has provided Watson his best chance at a starting job, at strong-side linebacker. But if you thought the nature of the relationship had changed in Black’s absence, you’d be wrong.
It turns out Black is still actively helping Watson develop, even if he’s no longer in the same locker room. Released with an injury settlement in the spring, Black continues offering guidance to Watson as he tries to take the baton from Black – even though Black himself might never play again.
“Quincy is still being a leader as we speak,” Watson said today, Day 2 of Bucs minicamp. “He’s texted me plenty of times, telling me to take advantage of the opportunity. He’s trying to tell me some things to make sure that I’m ready this year. He’s still being that big brother to me. He’s still playing his role.”
It was a role Black willingly played for the first three years of Watson’s career. Black, a four-year starter, took a sincere interest in Watson after Watson was drafted in the seventh round from Florida State in 2010.
Sometimes, the job called for Black to be encouraging. At other times, it required him to provide accountability or instill discipline.
“He always had me going hard no matter what, whether it was special teams or whatever my role was,” Watson said. “I remember one time when I was trying to go eat and (Black) was like, ‘Hey, man, let’s go watch film.’ I said, ‘Okay, let me go eat first.’ He said, ‘No, we’re ‘bout to go watch film.’
“Well, I didn’t eat that day, but I got what I needed.”
Now Watson, implementing many of Black’s lessons, is positioned to win a starting job for the first time. He’s got to fend off an expected challenge from free-agent addition Jonathan Casillas, a former member of the Saints. But Watson continues to take snaps with the first-team defense and hasn’t disappointed his coaches.
“Dekoda is, I think, an elite special teams player in this league. And now he’s trying to become an elite linebacker,” coach Greg Schiano said. “I think he’s made big strides. It’s all in front of him right now.”