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August 6, 2011 @ 1:22 pm
Current rating: 3.40 Stars/5 Votes

Foster’s First-Team Workload Increasing

Written by Eric
Eric Horchy


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Tampa Bay rookie middle linebacker Mason Foster lined up with the first team during most of Saturday afternoon's walk-through. He continues to compete with Tyrone McKenzie and Derrell Smith for the starting job.

A final decision on who gets the starting nod at middle linebacker remains uncertain, but head coach Raheem Morris mentioned Saturday that rookie Mason Foster is spending plenty of time with the first team.

“He’s doing well,” Morris said to reporters after a Saturday afternoon walk-through. “It’s hard to say the job’s his, you’ve got to go through the work, you’ve got to go through the games, you’ve got to go out there and prove yourself. But you want to give him an opportunity to go out there and win it and he’s doing a nice job of picking everything up and competing.”

Foster, 6-foot-1, 241-pounds, was Tampa Bay’s third-round selection out of the University of Washington this year and is battling for the position’s top spot with Tyrone McKenzie and Derrell Smith.

McKenzie, 6-foot-2, 245-pounds, is entering his second year with the team after being drafted in 2009 by New England in the third round. While the former University of South Florida standout from Riverview has a two-year leg up in terms of pro experience, he has only five total tackles under his belt.

Smith was acquired as a free agent after going undrafted out of Syracuse University this spring and is said to be in the mix for playing time. Similarly sized at 6-foot-2, 232-pounds, Smith led the Orange in tackling last season with 114 in 13 games.

The need to designate a new director of the defensive huddle became guaranteed when the Buccaneers parted ways with Barrett Ruud. Tampa Bay’s tackling leader over the past four seasons, Ruud signed with the Tennessee Titans and is their expected starting middle linebacker.

Morris kept his analysis of the position battle brief and general. He noted that Foster did get the most reps with the first group Saturday but that the competition is ongoing.

“I’ve talked about D. Smith a couple times and he’s doing a nice job,” Morris said. “And T. Mac is also out there competing so you’ve got to let these guys go out and play and fix things every day.”

Foster, who signed a four-year deal with the Bucs, has been earning early praise throughout training camp for his hard-hitting demeanor and mindset when between the lines. His ability to track down the ball carrier was highlighted last year with Washington when he led the team in tackles with 162; good for second most in the entire Football Bowl Subdivision. That same senior season, Foster was named an All-American, earned Defensive MVP honors during the Huskies’ 19-7 Holiday Bowl win over Nebraska and participated in the Senior Bowl.


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  • avatar

    looking forward to see foster play on friday. i think its the best way to help a player get better quickly - same happened with freeman, williams, benn and blount.
  • avatar

    His intent was to honor the great # 55.
  • avatar

    I think Foster will be nice at MLB.Early mistake though he asked DOM if he could wear#55.Horrible move kid.Show respect.
  • avatar

    A coach is going to play the best players..........period or he won't have his own job for long. I've never understood why some fans think they have an agenda to play favorites, especially at QB. That's right, the guy with the clipboard is better but the coach doesn't like him.
  • avatar

    Both Foster and McKenzie are third round draft picks; so where they were picked should not give one an advantage over the other. The key is the one that is able to read the opposite team's offensive moves and know the proper defense to put them in at the last minute. McKenzie may have an advantage there because he knows the Bucs defense better than Foster. However, if during the preseason neither one knows enough to make those last minute calls, the Bucs still have the option of moving Black to middle linebacker where he played in college, and he should be able to adjust and make the calls. Dakota Watson is plenty capable of taking over Black's old position. By the way, Foster has a lot more experience from College at strong side linebacker than he does inside; so if he does not get a starting job in the middle the Bucs should have him compete to start at that position where he does not have to make calls, but he could pick up the defense playing there and one day may later take over the middle when he is ready. We have good linebackers!
  • avatar

    Also, again, I agree with Horse.
  • avatar

    You guys must be very young. I was in the doubting mode when I was young. I thought everything the coaches did was bullshit. I really think this bunch of coaches are going to play the person that they think is the best at the position. Their liveliehood depends on the players they put in to play. They don't have a choice but to play the guys that they think are going to win and keep everyones' jobs. Get real!
  • avatar

    I love to this competive position for these guys. It just makes us a lot better. Go Bucs!
  • avatar

    pre season will answer alot of questons and jobs
  • avatar

    I think Morris is just making these guys get better. They are unproven at this point and competition is what will make them better. Still making the job up for grabs only makes these guys fight harder and work harder. Its a good thing in my eyes.
  • avatar

    Question: If the middle linebacker is wearing the mic'd helemet but comes off the field on third (passing) downs, does the team then reliy on hand signals ? Have to say that I remember Ruud calling tons of audibles at the line of scrimmage AFTER his mic was turned off. Would either of these young players make those calls? Another player? Ronde? Guessing it will be the brain inside the MLB helmet that wins the position ...
  • avatar

    Hmmmm....the tone that Morris is using here kinda bothers me. Its almost as if the job is Foster's to lose rather than an open competition.
  • avatar

    FLBoyInDallas - I agree. I want Foster and McKenzie to start haha. But the fact is we've never really seen anything in a real game from either of em. We know Black is going to start at SAM. But MIKE and WILL are up for grabs. Id like to see Foster start at Will and McKenzie win MIKE.
  • avatar

    There should be an even-handed competition. I would be careful not to discourage either player - Foster, if he doesn't win and was given every chance- McKenzie if he doesn't win because he never had a chance. I would rather see them both have an equal opportunity and the long-term starter determined on the field of play (games).
  • avatar

    My only expectation regarding MLB is that they allow it to be a true competition and if McKenzie is ahead of Foster & Smith then they let him play. Don't try to push Foster into the lineup just because he was a high draft pick. Hopefully it's a fair, unbiased competition and the best man wins.
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