- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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TAMPA, Fla. -- When Dekoda Watson stretches before practice these days, he’s not lining up with the linebackers or the defensive ends.
“I’m in my own stretch line,’’ Watson said with a laugh.
That’s because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers suddenly have made Watson into a hybrid. In Sunday’s victory against Atlanta, the Bucs used Watson, who opened the season at strong-side linebacker, as a pass-rushing defensive end.
“He played rush end not only in rush situations but also on first and second down,’’ coach Greg Schiano said.
Look for that trend to continue because Watson already is having success. Against the Falcons, Watson altered a throw by Matt Ryan that turned into an interception that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Mason Foster.
At 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, Watson is much smaller than traditional defensive ends. But that’s part of the reason the Bucs are using him as a defensive end.
“I think what he gives is he gives really good speed off the edge,’’ Schiano said. “That’s what we need to make sure he brings. When he gets out there, he needs to bring it. He’s got a purpose now. First and second down are a little bit different. First and second down, a lot of the things we’re doing with (starting defensive end) Adrian (Clayborn), he can do to give Adrian a rest is stand-up defensive end at times and he has a good feel for that because it’s not very much unlike what he did at the Sam linebacker position in run and pass situations. In just pass situations, you’ve got to crank it up and get around the edge.’’
Watson said he’s fine with his new role.
“It’s going well,’’ Watson said. “There’s still a lot that I can learn and I’m willing to work for it. Obviously, I’m not playing Sam anymore. But that’s all right. I’m going where I’m needed and I enjoy rushing the passer so we’ll just see how it goes as the year goes on.’’