The Buccaneers are officially unhappy with their middle linebacker play. So much so that middle linebacker Dane Fletcher has been stripped of play-calling duties.
Subbing for the injured Mason Foster, Fletcher has not played well in pass coverage or in run fits in his starts at Atlanta, Pittsburgh and New Orleans. The Bucs defense has surrendered 103 points combined over the last three weeks, an average of 34.3 points per game.
Last week at New Orleans, Fletcher had several missed tackles and only five stops, while weakside linebacker Lavonte David posted a game-high 14 and strongside linebacker Danny Lansanah had a career-high 10 tackles against the Saints. Tampa Bay defensive tackle Gerald McCoy revealed that David is now calling plays as he did a year ago, and he feels David’s experience at that will help aid the defensive line in getting set and lined up faster.
“Drew Brees will come up to the ball and just snap it,” McCoy said. On our first third down nobody was even set. We were all standing up. [Joe] Flacco will do the same thing. We have to be aligned. When you have your feet set it’s easier to play fast. When you’re scrambling, it’s hard to get to your spot and play fast. We definitely have to line up. We can’t just line up [without getting a call]. Me personally, I know I do this sometimes because I watch so much film, I just know where to line. I know where to line myself up. But sometimes the linebackers have rules where it’s not normal where I would line up, so I have to wait.
“Sometimes I line myself up and you’ll see me scrambling to the other side because I didn’t know that extra rule they put in. You just have to kind of wait on the call; they’re working on it and making the transition with Lavonte making the calls. He hasn’t done this (make defensive calls) since last season. He’s getting back into it. So far, I’ve walked through today’s and yesterday’s practice and he’s doing a good job.”
When asked if David is only calling plays this week while Foster remains limited in practice, or if the move is permanent, McCoy said he didn’t know.
“I’m not sure,” McCoy said. “I really can’t answer that, but right now it is what it is. They say ‘Gerald, line up to the right and mess something up’, that’s what I’m going to do. Whoever tells me to do it, it doesn’t matter. If they say do it I’m going to do it.”
On Wednesday David said he can handle it again if called upon.
“I have no idea,” David said. “We (hopefully) have Mason Foster back so I hope not, but if it comes down to it, that’s not a problem.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
Scott, why don’t we just move David, or Lansanah to the middle? When Foster’s ready put him as the SAM. We’ve seen how good this defense can be with the right player in the middle. See Brian Urlacker. Fletcher has no business being a starter in the NFL, and Foster’s best spot might be the SAM.
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