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Quincy Black's 2010 Season - Secret Superstar or Replaceable

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Quincy Black was supposed to be the wild card of the Bucs' defense. He was supposed to create splash plays, be a dynamic edge rusher on third down and be a force in the run game. Unfortunately that didn't exactly happen as planned in a 2010 season marred by injury. The strongside linebacker created a few splash play and was a decent overall player, but he certainly didn't stand out as a difference maker on defense. When he was out with injury he was replaced by a platoon of Adam Hayward and rookie Dekoda Watson, and I certainly didn't notice any dropoff in production. This speaks to the quality of Hayward and Watson, but also the replacability of Quincy Black. 

The biggest myth surrounding Quincy Black is that he's a great pass rusher. Raheem Morris designed the 3-3-5 to take advantage of Black's edge-rushing skills (though I personally suspect he just invented it so he could play more 3-man rushes on third down). But Black had just 2 sacks during the season, and 2 further pressures by my count. That's pretty poor production for a player who had a defensive scheme created for him. At the same time, though, Quincy Black was a good run-stopper and pretty decent in pass coverage. He was a decent player at everything he did, and he wasn't the liability he had been in 2009 at times. 

This is where ProFootballFocus comes in. The people over at that site grade every player in the NFL for every snap of every regular season game. It's a pretty impressive project, although grading plays remains a nebulous thing. Still, they produce some useful information, and their analysis led them to call Quincy Black a 'Secret Superstar'. They were especially impressed with his pass coverage, where they graded him positively on all but 11 plays. Quincy Black certainly didn't show up all too often on the stat sheet as a defender, notching 3 tipped passes at the line and one defensed pass by my own count (PFF had him down for two tipped passes). At the same time, he had few real lapses in coverage and wasn't targeted often by opposing quarterbacks. 

The same can be said for his performance in the running game. He didn't make a lot of splash plays, but he didn't seem to mess up much either. Of course, this is difficult to tell on a play-to-play basis because I don't know the scheme. but the fact that he only had 4 missed or broken tackles all season speaks to that. He was a solid but unremarkable player. In fact, that describes Quincy Black perfectly: solid but unremarkable. Which is kind of odd considering his immense athletic talent, but there we have it.   

So ProFootballFocus claims the Bucs need to keep Quincy Black in town because he's only one of three linebackers in the NFL to rate above average at every aspect of his game. That is pretty impressive, and it signifies Quincy Black's usefulness. Unfortunately it also shows that he's an unremarkable player - decent at average, but not great at anything. It shows that he's not a player that can create plays, and that means he shouldn't be a priority to re-sign.

Black's a useful player, but there won't be a huge drop-off with a platoon of Hayward and Watson, as we've already seen this year. Hayward and Watson certainly don't bring the same consistency Black does, as ProFootballFocus had Hayward as a good pass defender and rusher, but not as good against the pass, and Watson as a good pass defender and nothing else. But what the Bucs' defense needs now is not more adequate players who can do their job. They need players that can make an impact at a specific area of the game. The Bucs need players they can build a defense around, not players that can sustain one like Quincy Black. Although re-signing him would be useful, the Bucs shouldn't give up too much to keep him in town.