The curious case of Quincy Black - what will his 2012 season look like?

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 11: Maurice Jones-Drew #32 of the Jacksonville Jaguars attempts to run past Quincy Black #58 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the game at EverBank Field on December 11, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Quincy Black had one horrible year in 2011. He routinely missed tackles, appeared to be out of position too often and struggled to stay healthy. To some fans, Black epitomized the 2011 Tampa Bay Buccaneers: terrible. Fan vitriol wasn't helped by the fact that Black had just received a massive new contract, worth $29 million over five years with $11.5 million in guaranteed money. To some, Black is now a useless, overpaid player who has to be removed from this team for his subpar 2011 play.

Yet, that ignores one simple fact: Black wasn't alone or even exceptional in his struggles. The entire defense struggled once Gerald McCoy disappeared from the picture. In addition, Black wasn't fully healthy as he was returning from an ankle injury suffered in week 3 of the regular season. That's not to make excuses for Black: he played terribly. But there's reason to believe that isn't a structural issue.

Black never looked like a special linebacker to me, but he does have the physical characteristics to be a successful NFL defender. Those abilities often did come to the surface, as Black was a quality run defender throughout his tenure with the Bucs - with the exception of 2011, that is. While he's always struggled in coverage, he does have ability as a blitzer - though not as an edge rusher, despite Raheem Morris' statements on the matter.

For Black, 2011 was not the norm, but the exception. Is he overpaid? Possibly, but that shouldn't concern anyone. For one, his salary is guaranteed for 2012 anyway - there's nothing anyone can change about that. More importantly, the Bucs have plenty of salary cap space. But being overpaid does not make him useless: he's a terrific special teams player and has been a good run defender throughout most of his tenure. He also seems to be penciled in as the team's starting strong side linebacker, so you'll see him on the field plenty of times next season. Don't let out an exasperated sigh when you do: despite his 2011 season, Black can be a useful player for the Bucs.

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