Jonathan Casillas strives to make Bucs' LB battle interesting
We told you earlier this week about linebacker Dekoda Watson and his efforts to lock up the starting job on the strong-side.
But as Watson and coaches readily acknowledge, Watson has significant competition, and his name is Jonathan Casillas.
Like Watson, Casillas does not have a household name, and he, too, is trying to make his mark as a young veteran who. Like Watson, Casillas has been a reliable special teams player and a fill-in starter and is entering his fourth season, but he's seeking more.
The former Wisconsin standout talked this week about how he’ll fit in the Tampa Bay defense.
“It’s a little similar to what New Orleans was doing last year with (defensive coordinator) Steve Spaguolo,” said Casillas, who spent three seasons with the Saints.
“A lot of matching coverages and zone blitzes. It’s similar, but all the terminology’s different and the angles we attack offenses is different. But the gist of it is the same. There’s some carryover. I like this defense. It’s made for people like me who like to run and hit. We have a great group of guys like that in our unit.”
Asked what quality will help separate him in a position battle, Casillas continued with a similar theme.
“I think my ability to play in space is something that adds some versatility to me,” he said. “I think I have pretty good hands and I’m able to put my hands on blockers and get off blockers. I just want to keep continuing to get better in the system and learn how to diagnose plays with this terminology and continue to grow. I’m just going to continue to bring my skills to the table.”
Watson will have to truly earn this job if Casillas, 26, makes good on his vow to make things interesting. Asked about competition, Casillas didn’t hesitate before saying, “I was born a competitor. . . I’ve never backed down from it.”
Casillas started just eight games in three seasons with the Saints, but he played a great deal as a reserve and now wants to take the next step to become a more consistent contributor.
“Ever since my rookie year, I’ve wanted to be a starter and I ended up starting (some) games,” he said. “Not as many as I wanted to, but I do consider myself a starter whether I’m starting in Week 1 or Week 10.”