Over the past two years, the Green Bay Packers have built a very strong and very versatile defense. One of the most interesting aspects of their defense was their willingness to experiment with defensive linemen and pass rushers. At times, the Packers lined up with just one defensive lineman, and multiple linebackers mulling around trying to create pressure. Two-man lines were very common on third down, and the Packers had an extremely successful defense despite multiple injuries last season. Naturally, coaches around the league copy what is successful, and the Bucs may be doing exactly that - and they have the personnel for it.
Last season, the Bucs tried to use Quincy Black as a fourth rusher on third downs. They would have him on the line of scrimmage alongside three defensive linemen as a defensive end, except he was standing up. He'd rush - and then nothing would happen, because Quincy Black isn't a good enough pass rusher to beat an offensive linemen. The Bucs ran a few stunts, but they weren't overly creative in finding ways to take advantage of Black's speed. But this will likely change this year, with Dekoda Watson as the pass rusher.
Dekoda Watson really flashed as a rusher against the Kansas City Chiefs. He played a lot on third downs at the end of last season and showed some skills then, but he seems to have really improved over the offseason. He showed the ability to reach the edge and turn the corner as a true speed rusher in the first preseason game, and that's something that no other player on the Bucs roster really has, except maybe Michael Bennett.
The Bucs now have a competent pass rusher at linebacker, which gives them a lot of flexibility on third down. The advantage of having a linebacker as a pass rusher over a defensive end is having the ability to bring him from a lot of different angles and overloading a certain part of an offensive line. Basically, using linebackers as pass-rushers allow a team to more easily confuse an offense, beating its protection scheme without compromising coverage through a blitz. That's part of what made the Green Bay Packers successful on third down: confusion.
Whereas last season, the sight of Quincy Black as a pass-rusher on third down caused groans, it may be a good thing this year. Dekoda Watson brings a different type of pass rush and has the ability to really make an impact. Look for him on third downs throughout the regular season - and look for him in the upcoming preseason games to see if he continues his impressive play.