table of contents
- Foster May Be Bucs’ Best Draft Pick In 2011
- What The Bucs' Draft Could Have Been
- Bucs Building A Bigger, Tougher – And Hopefully Better – Defense
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: DE Clayborn
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: DE Bowers
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: LB Foster
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: TE Stocker
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: FS Black
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: RB Bradford
- Point-Counterpoint: Which Undrafted FA Should Tampa Bay Sign?
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: TE Hardy
- 2011 Draft Class Profile: CB Gaitor
Playing on the West Coast in the Pac 10 Conference, Bucs fans may have as much familiarity with Foster as they had when quarterback Josh Freeman was first selected out of Kansas State University. Both Washington and K-State are schools that are rarely televised in the Tampa Bay television market, which features more geographically closer conferences, such as the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Big East Conference.
The Huskies standout was the second-leading tackler in the nation last year with 163 stops, 14 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles and one blocked kick. During his Washington career, Foster was a stud playmaker, recording 378 tackles, 38.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks, 11 pass breakups, eight forced fumbles, four interceptions, one blocked kick and one defensive touchdown.
With 4.67 speed in the 40-yard dash and a 6-foot-1, 245-pound frame, Foster has the ability and toughness to play any of the three linebacker spots in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 defense. One of Mason’s strengths is shedding blocks, which then allows him to use his superior instincts to seek and destroy the ballcarrier.
While Bucs head coach Raheem Morris publicly made excuses for his linebacking corps last year and denying the fact that the unit had trouble shedding blocks quickly and making tackles at or near the line of scrimmage, the film doesn’t lie. Even the film study done by the New York Times (http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/06/2010-bucs-what-the-film-revealed/?smid=tw-nytimes5thdown&seid=auto) reached the conclusion that Tampa Bay’s linebackers needed to be more stout at the point of attack and were a contributing factor in the team ranking 28th in the NFL in run defense last year and dead last in 2009.
“Bad linebacking was an issue this defense couldn’t overcome,” wrote New York Times NFL blogger Andy Benoit. “Outside ’backers Quincy Black and Geno Hayes lacked the strength to consistently hold up in traffic. The same could probably be said about middle linebacker Barrett Ruud, but he had trouble even making it to the traffic. Ruud was routinely tied up with blocks six yards from the line of scrimmage.”
In almost an admission that shedding blocks was an issue for Tampa Bay’s linebacking corps in the past, Bucs general manager Mark Dominik was quick to point out that getting of blocks was one of Foster’s strengths.
“His instincts and his use of hands in terms of being able to get off blocks and shed [intrigued us the most]. He’s very physical,” said Dominik. “He’s a powerful tackler. He has a lot of tackles for losses in his career. He’s had eight forced fumbles. He’s got [four] career interceptions. I think he was second in the country this year in total tackles. He was a captain on their football team. All of those things are what we’re looking for in Tampa Bay Buccaneers and we’re excited about this pick as well.”
Although the Bucs have yet to state where Foster will begin his NFL career, there have been some rumors that he will replace Barrett Ruud as the team’s middle linebacker. That might not be a bad idea.
While Ruud has been the team’s leading tackler every year since he took over the Mike linebacker duties in 2007 when he replaced Shelton Quarles, he has his share of critics that suggest that he makes too many tackles downfield and not enough near the line of scrimmage. Foster would represent a more physical presence at the point of attack, and Morris did say that he had been used as a middle linebacker on occasion at Washington, although he primarily played outside during his collegiate career.
“Well, he’s played inside a little bit,” Morris said. “Legitimately, we can see Mason Foster playing Sam position. You can see him play rush end. You can see him play inside ‘backer. You can see him play the weakside linebacker. He legitimately does it all in college on tape and that was really intriguing to us because of those things, and all those things.
“You know our Redskin package (3-3-5 scheme); we bring guys off the edge. He certainly can add to that, he can certainly be a part of that. We have a Lobo package where we had Dekoda [Watson] and Quincy [Black] out there. We did some different things, and he certainly can be one of those guys that fall into that type of mold.”
When PewterReport.com interviewed Foster at the Senior Bowl, he didn’t rule out his interest in playing middle linebacker, but did express his interest in playing weakside linebacker.
“I feel like Will [linebacker] is where I’m more comfortable, but I’m willing to play whatever,” Foster said. “In my junior year, I played Sam and had a productive year there, and then I moved into Will for my senior year. So either way I feel comfortable, but I feel like running from sideline to sideline is one of my strong points. That’s a good place for the Will to play.”
Despite growing up on the West Coast in Seaside Calif., Foster became a Buccaneers fan because he attended a football camp of former Tampa Bay secondary coach Herman Edwards. Edwards was also from Seaside.
“The biggest Buc player I ever idolized was Derrick Brooks,” said Foster. “He is my favorite player of all time. Just the way he played football and the way he made plays for his team. Herman Edwards from Seaside, California coached for the Buccaneers, so I’ve always had that connection to the Bucs, and it is something I look forward to in going down to Tampa Bay and doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
While Foster wouldn’t mind stepping into Brooks’ shoes at weakside linebacker, that is the one linebacker spot that currently has a starter in Geno Hayes. Not that Hayes, who had a slightly disappointing year in terms of statistical production, couldn’t use some competition, but with two starters in Ruud and Black (in addition to reserves Adam Hayward and Niko Koutouvides) slated for free agency, the Bucs might be pressed to use him at Mike or Sam just given the current vacancies. Foster’s versatility was one of the intriguing aspects about him in the eyes of Morris.
“You talk about the linebackers and the uncertainty of what’s going to happen with free agency and what’s going to happen with our guys,” Morris said. “He’s one of the guys that has the mental makeup to play all three positions.”
Foster met with Morris at the Senior Bowl and was thrilled to be drafted by Tampa Bay. He can’t wait to play for the head coach who will also serve as his defensive coordinator.
“I was actually at home and my roommate and I were watching Sound FX on NFL Network and [the Bucs] seem really exciting,” Foster said. “Raheem seemed like a good guy. He’s a young coach and has a great team and they have a great quarterback, so that seems like it’s an exciting place to be.”
Expect Foster’s play to make Tampa Bay even more exciting.
• One of the reasons why the Buccaneers passed on drafting California defensive end Cameron Jordan to select Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn was because the most sacks Jordan had produced in any given season was 5.5, which came during his senior year. Clayborn had an incredibly productive junior season where he produced 11.5 sacks and Tampa Bay felt more comfortable taking a player like the former Hawkeye that had shown the ability to be a double-digit sacker and had some doubts over whether Jordan could ever become that player or if he was destined to be a five- or six-sack per season guy.
• One of the practices that have helped the Buccaneers lure undrafted free agents to Tampa Bay in years past in the post-draft free-for-all, was the recruiting job done by the scouts and coaches during pre-draft visits to One Buc Place. It was customary for the Bucs to use a handful or more of the allotted 30 visits on players that were fringe seventh-round picks/undrafted free agents. The players that went undrafted were recruited to sign with the Bucs should that happen, and the team was relatively successful doing that.
However, given the NFL lockout and the fact that no free agency can occur until a new collective bargaining agreement has been agreed to by the NFL owners and the players union, teams were not allowed to do any overt recruiting during pre-draft visits.
“We were limited by the lockout,” said Bucs director of college scouting Dennis Hickey. “We were limited with what we could actually do. We were told not to recruit or show interest in guys that weren’t going to be drafted. That was not something that we were allowed to do. It was a completely different animal this year.”