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The Forgotten Star on Defense: Geno Hayes

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Yes, Geno Hayes is in there somewhere
Yes, Geno Hayes is in there somewhere

Geno Hayes is the one experienced Buccaneer linebacker who will definitely be back next year. Both Quincy Black and Barrett Ruud are scheduled to be free agents, and no one else on the Bucs defense has started more than a handful of games in his career. Geno, on the other hand, has been the starting weakside linebacker since 2009, when he took over for the legendary Derrick Brooks. Unfortunately, Geno Hayes has not been the second coming of Derrick Brooks. He isn't as consistent, he isn't as good a tackler, and he isn't as good at following his assignments. 

But that doesn't mean Geno Hayes is worthless, and there is one thing Geno is very good at: splash plays. He has a tendency to shoot past plays and get blocked out of a play, but he's also tremendously fast and can impact a play at any time. I've seen him knife through an offensive line to tackle a running back moments after receiving a handoff. If Geno could couple that playmaking ability with a little more consistency, he could be a star. 

And the numbers support this idea. Geno Hayes was tied for the seventh most 'defeats' of all defensive players last season, according to Football Outsiders. Defeats are plays where a player causes a turnover, a loss of yardage or stops a third- or fourth-down conversion. Only one 4-3 OLB did better than Hayes, and that was the Panthers' James Anderson, who is incidentally scheduled to be a free agent. Hayes has the ability to make game-changing plays with regularity. But despite that, his job may not be secure next season.