During the offseason the Buccaneers set out to become more athletic on defense, particularly at the linebacker position. Tampa Bay replaced Mason Foster, believing that the former third-round pick lacked the ideal speed and ability in coverage, then drafted a linebacker with 4.5 speed in LSU’s Kwon Alexander, keeping the pressure on last year’s surprise standout Danny Lansanah.
Bruce Carter, Tampa Bay’s most notable 2015 free agent addition and likely Foster’s replacement, spent time in Dallas at both the middle and strong side linebacker positions in the Cowboy’s Tampa 2 scheme.
“(Carter’s) played in this system before,” said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier. “He has had some success both at the inside backer position as well as the outside. We think Bruce can really give us something, especially his athletic ability. He’s a guy who has very good speed. He’s a smart football player.”
Frazier continued, saying that the key for Carter will be to stay healthy. Although the fifth-year pro excelled in 2014 at the strongside position, he suffered a quadricep injury causing him to miss three games. Carter was able to finish the season strong, though, totaling 75 tackles, eight pass breakups and an impressive five interceptions, proving his versatility in the nickel defense.
A month after signing Carter, the Bucs turned to the draft to add another linebacker, selecting their only defensive player in Alexander. While the move took some by surprise, given that Alexander played the weakside spot in college and a position that Tampa Bay is set on with Lavonte David, the front office and coaching staff were determined to add athleticism and increase competition.
So far it’s gone according to plan, as the former Tiger was a standout at rookie minicamp. And while he and Lansanah will both likely receive a decent share of snaps this season, it shouldn’t surprise anyone if speedy fourth-round pick challenges Lansanah for the starting role.
“We had him rated pretty high in the draft, so we were very fortunate when he slipped to where he did and we were excited that we were able to draft him,” Frazier said. “He is a guy that has the athletic ability that we look for. He is excellent from a move standpoint. He has great agility and hands. He has that quick twitch we like to see on a linebacker.
He is a smart football player as well. He has a lot of ingredients we were hoping to find – a guy that could potentially start for us.”
In SR’s latest Fab 5 from Friday, director of college scouting Mike Biehl talked about Alexander.
“He’s fast and physical,” Biehl said. “Those are two traits we look for in linebackers. I don’t he think he was put in as many opportunities to cover as he will be in our defense, but that doesn’t mean he can’t do it. He’s fast and physical at the line. He can re-route tight ends at the line.
“A big part of this defense is just being smart and knowing where to be. That will be the biggest challenge for him – knowing the defense. But he’s a smart kid. He has the physical traits to be a good coverage guy. The good thing with us with Bruce Carter and Lavonte David we already have two guys that can play in the nickel, so it’s not like he’s going to be thrust in there right away. He can play on special teams, and that’s huge. That’s a big thing we talk about with our scouts is finding fourth down players.”
– Mark Cook and Zach Shapiro contributed to this report
Deepest position on the team! Training camp will be intense competition because they’re all pretty good. Winners will be who masters the Tampa 2 and brings special teams value! The Bucs are much improved at LB!
LINEBACKER – 11
58 Alexander, Kwon LB 6-1 227 20 R Louisiana State
59 Alston, Quinton LB 6-1 232 21 R Iowa
50 Carter, Bruce LB 6-2 240 27 5 North Carolina
54 David, Lavonte LB 6-1 233 25 3 Nebraska
53 Dean, Larry LB 6-0 226 26 5 Valdosta State
44 Greene, Khaseem LB 6-1 241 26 3 Rutgers
49 Keyes, Josh LB 6-2 223 23 R Boston College
71 Koster, Jared LB 6-1 210 24 R New Mexico Highlands
51 Lansanah, Danny LB 6-1 255 29 2 Connecticut
45 Lemon, Orie LB 6-1 242 27 4 Oklahoma State
52 Williams, Jason LB 6-1 245 28 6 Western Illinois
Mac, LB may be the deepest position on the team (I think it’s a tie with safety) but the MLB position still worries me. If you look at the total grade of the player I think it was a lateral move going from Foster to Carter at MLB. I think Carter will be better against the pass but Foster was more instinctive against the run so I think it’s about even and neither gives me any type of overall comfort at the MLB position. I actually thought the same thing last offseason in that going from Penn to Collins was a lateral move when it came to the total grade of the player except Collins was a year younger and a slightly cheaper. It turned out I was wrong and Collins was a far worse player on the field. I bring this up to gauge what everyone else’s comfort level is with Carter at MLB. I think like Foster he would be better at OLB in this defense.
Pink, I liked Foster, but Frazier was never sold on him. TEs like Greg Olsen/Panthers killed us down the middle last year. I don’t know Carter well enough to say yea or nay, but the Bucs think Carter is an upgrade. The Bears only gave Foster a 1 year contract at veteran’s minimum (825,000), hardly a prove-it deal. So not a lot of demand for his services.
Re: Safeties – Here they are, you decide!
SAFETY – 7
35 Hackett, Chris FS 6-2 195 23 R TCU
23 Conte, Chris SS 6-2 203 26 5 California
30 McDougald, Bradley FS 6-1 209 24 2 Kansas
36 Swearinger, D.J. S 5-10 208 23 3 South Carolina
37 Tandy, Keith FS 5-10 205 26 3 West Virginia
Xx Wells, Derrick FS 6-0 201 21 R Minnesota
31 Wright, Major SS 5-11 204 26 5 Florida
McDougald is emerging while Wright and Swearinger have value. Conte and Tandy are role players. Hackett is an up and comer who may surprise. Don’t know anything about Wells.
Pink, I think you are correct about Carter. I also feel Carter is a huge improvement over Foster due to the way our defense is set up. Our strength is our DT and our weekness is our DE. So how do you compensate for lack of pass rush? You get better coverage safeties and more athletic LBs who can stay in coverage longer. If our DTs can clog the middle forcing them to run outside then our faster more athletic LBs have the advantage. As long as our DTs can clog the middle then what Carter lacks in run Def wont be exposed. I really like the move by L&L but I would have like to see Foster kept as an insurance policy just in case Carter cant stay healthy.
Yes , Foster is a no brainier at a mil a year , should be on the roster no if ands of buts. Knowing the system, playing out of position at middle hence having the ability to also play outside, add serious depth and coach up the young backers for under a Mil. It’s amazing how we here all this crap about retaining players and building through the draft, well part of that is making players better and it just amazes me that the NFL coaches and GM’s don’t follow their own mouths and have no ability to adjust schemes as well as coach up and move players.Look at the players we signed that were clearly worse players under Lovie than the year before and you have a proven scheme educated LB that gives unreal depth.Experienced depth in the NFL is huge . Btw have Mark Barron gain 15 pounds and try him at linebacker, hell his best play under schiano was at linebacker, but oh no we can’t coach the guy so get him out of here. All these dip shits spend more time trying find there guy , when if they realized what they are really there to do and realize they don’t have 6 years. You won’t be around to build through the draft if can’t make people outside of your little world better.Winston may save these guys and had schiano had him he would still be coaching here because it is obvious Lovie is no better a coach than Schiano……… More liked but clearly not a better coach. Andy Reid is as are many others!!!
When the NFL is the passing league that it has become the ability to defend Pass>Run. The scheme fit of a cover-2 LB is also that of a smaller, faster player and one that can cover deep. If you have a guy in Foster who cannot cover his responsibilities then the rest of the defense suffers. So I’ll take Carter over Foster any day in this defense. And if Carter decides to check out, there are now other athletic LB’s who can jump in and take his place.
Good points made by all. Wnb0395 the only thing I would caution with the DT theory is that this is still a one-gap scheme. Even if they DT’s can disrupt and re-direct traffic Carter still has his own gap that he will be responsible for and the center is going to be calling him out as the Mike on most plays. If he can’t shed the block of that O-lineman or FB and if teams pick up on that by mid-season teams will run in his gap more often and he won’t have as many chances to defend the pass. I agree it’s more important to be able to defend the pass so I guess I’ll leave it at that I’m cautiously optimistic with Carter’s past history defending the run being the driving force behind that caution.
Our LB core is looking strong. They should be able to provide good enough coverage to buy time for our DEs to get to the QB more often. We’re already strong at DT which will help our run defense and provide added QB pressure. I’m still in the air about our S situation but if all the other pieces work out it should make it easier for our safeties to produce.
I think the big question about our LBs is when will LVD finally get the recognition he deserves? I see he was left off the NFL top 100 list again this year…
Again this year? He made it last year, and likely will make it again. Perhaps you’re thinking about the ProBowl. He’s the best outside linebacker in the game!
You may be right…but he should’ve made the Pro Bowl too! I hate when I talk to non-Tampa fans and they say we need another Brooks or Sapp and I’m like “We already have both!”
We look good better on papaer but we always did, To bad Barret Ruud didn’t work out in the long run when he played next to Brooks he was a tackling machine, don;t know what happened after that
Rudd always led team in tackles but he was bit undersized and I think he wore out quick. At least that was my take.
at the very least we have depth at special teams! I like the Greene pick up, good back up weak side option.
I’m hoping one of the LB’s can bring a little Hardy Nickerson type ‘tude if it hasn’t been banned by the league.
I just want football smart players and that will solve many problems. I have no clue if any of these free agents who were picked up from other teams have football smarts. The other teams didn’t resign them; could be they weren’t athletic enough either. I hate to be negative on what I have just said, but I have no clue if they help us win another game or not.
Horse, I don’t know if Carter is smart, but he is very athletic.
All those great defenders and only one title. I blame it on the Tampa two . A Middle Linebacker chasing a WR down the middle of the field.
I have concerns with Bruce Carter. Carter actually lost his starting position for the Cowboys last year. The issue with his tendency to injuries is a big concern. Pro Football Focus had Carter ranked 35th. Bucs should have kept Mason Foster as insurance. I hear he is starting for the Bears.
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