On a defense that set franchise records for futility, the Buccaneers linebacking corps was a major part of the struggles. This season, every position is up for grabs, and the players are embracing the competition.
The play of the 2011 Buccaneers linebacking corps – and the entire defense for that matter – left much to be desired last season. After setting a franchise record for points allowed (494 points), Tampa Bay’s linebacking unit is an open audition. A few days into the 2012 training camp nothing is set in stone and players know they will have to earn their stripes.
“Yes, everyday,” second-year middle linebacker Mason Foster said. “Nothing is guaranteed here. You got to come out and win your spot and try to make this team better any way possible every single day.”
The 6-foot-2, 242-pound former Washington Huskie believes this group of linebackers can be great. Foster had high praise for the second-round draft pick of 2012 Lavonte David.
“Yes, I feel like with all the linebackers you know we have all played together somehow someway,” Foster said. “Lavonte (David) is an incredible athlete you know what I mean and he is coming along. He is a really smart kid. So it is great having him next to me and he is flying around trying to get better as well.”
It is still relatively early in training camp, but Buccaneer head coach Greg Schiano is pleased with his linebacker unit and believes there are battles for that starting role. The ninth head coach in the Buccaneer franchise also stressed that as a player it is important to focus on just doing your job and not too much. He believes that the linebacker group is doing just that—focusing on their job.
“I think there are definitely battles,” Schiano said. “I’m pleased with Mason (Foster). He’s getting better every day. Adam (Hayward) is coming back from the injury and he’s starting to get it now. I think Lavonte (David) is doing some really good things. I think we have some really good young kids there. I think (Quincy) Black has made a lot of plays these first four days. You just have to keep getting better. The whole thing is, doing your job. One of the things you can’t do as a defensive player is try to do too much, because what happens then is you try to do too much and something opens up and you have a big play and then guys start to lose confidence in what they’re doing so we just got to do our job and do it consistently and I think the linebackers are starting to a better job of that and are starting to get a better feel for things.”
When asked if the linebackers can set the tempo for the defense, Schiano (who was a former linebacker for Bucknell University from 1984-1987), believes that the linebacker position is important; however, he believes there is one unit even more important.
“I believe the front four sets the tone,” Schiano said. “I believe the linebackers are important, I played the position and love the position, but at the end of the day those front four are the key to your defense. They make everything else go.”
Rookie Lavonte David likes how the curent group of linebackers are helping each other out. Veterans like Quincy Black, Hayward and even second-year player Foster are all pitching in, supporting the entire unit.
“Like I said, the whole linebacker corps,” David said. “Everybody [is] teaching each other each position and things like that. That is something we need in that position role. We got a great group of leaders in that position. Not only Mason (Foster), Quincy (Black), Jacob (Cutrera), Adam (Hayward), Rennie (Curran) and all those guys are helping me and Najee (Goode) out a lot. It is a great quality.”
Even though this linebacker group is for the most part young, David said the bar is set high.
“The sky is the limit,” David said. “It is early in camp. We don’t know what we are going to do right now, but we just keep working at it. We got a lot of practice coming. We keep working at it. Like I said sky can be the limit.”-Mark Cook contributed to this report
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