Few teams in pro football emphasize special-teams play the way the Bucs do. Moreover, almost every linebacker on their roster excels in kick coverage. Check it out:
- Geno Hayes, a 6-1, 226-pound three-year man, started 13 games at weakside linebacker last season - recording 136 tackles and a team-high 14 tackles for loss - but enhanced his value by blocking two punts.
- Quincy Black, a 6-2, 227-pound four-year veteran, started 13 games at strongside linebacker last season but also starred on special teams, according to Buccaneers.com, the team's official website.
- Niko Koutouvides, a 6-2, 238-pound seven-year veteran, rarely contributed at linebacker but stayed on the payroll by notching a team-high 18 special-teams tackles.
- Adam Hayward, a 6-1, 240-pound four-year man, also provided limited help as a 'backer but contributed 15 special-teams stops.
- Rod Wilson, a 6-2, 230-pounder with four years of NFL experience, has posted 32 of his 44 career stops to date on special teams.
- In addition, Tampa Bay's linebacker corps features free-agent Jon Alston, who led the Oakland Raiders with 20 special-teams tackles in 2008.
Just about the only Buc 'backers who aren't considered special-teams demons are Angelo Crowell, a 6-1, 246-pound eight-year veteran, and Barrett Ruud, a 6-2, 241-pound six-year man.
Crowell started for the Buffalo Bills from 2005-2007 but missed the '08 and '09 seasons due to injury. Ruud, who recorded a mind-boggling 205 tackles as Tampa Bay's middle linebacker last season, is productive enough from scrimmage without providing a whole lot of help on special teams.
In addition to all of the players mentioned above, Tampa selected Florida State linebacker Dakoda Watson (6-1, 226) in Round 7 of the recent NFL Draft. A dynamic blitzer, he recorded 6 1/2 sacks for the Seminoles last fall.
The Bucs' linebacker prospects also include Lee Robinson (6-2, 256) and Matt Featherston (6-2, 253).
Robinson is a second-year player who spent most of his rookie season on the Tampa Bay practice squad. Featherston attended Texas A&M and, like McCoy, recently signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted rookie free agent.
Given the glut of 'backer prospects and the obvious emphasis on special-teams play, Rico McCoy's best bet to make the Bucs' roster is to prove himself invaluable on kick and punt coverage.