Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster will be front and center for the Tampa Bay defense this season. Along with that comes the responsibility of calling plays in the defensive huddle.
Outside linebacker Lavonte David was the primary signal caller the past couple seasons under the previous regime. But in the Bucs’ new defensive scheme, the “mike” or middle linebacker takes on the role of the defenses quarterback. That’s something Foster is embracing.
“You know, I did it my rookie year,” Foster said. “It takes a lot to do but I love it. Being in front of the huddle, making the calls, something me and Lavonte did together so I know he’s got my back and we’ll just keep working through it. I love it though.”
Foster also stated that he would turn to David for help transitioning into that role.
“We’ve dealt with everything. We bounce ideas of each other and talk about everything on and off the field,” Foster said. “But then again I did it my rookie year. We had a lockout so I came in then not really having to deal with speakers before in your helmet at all. So I’m used to it. It’s just part of the game. This is going to be my fourth year so I’m ready for whatever.”
Foster, a third round selection out of Washington, totaled 84 combined tackles his rookie season in 2011 as the Bucs defensive signal caller. The former “defensive quarterback” Lavonte David talked about having that responsibility stripped.
“It’s the job of the middle linebacker,” David said. “It can free me up a little bit more. Give me time to digest what I have to do and kind of help everyone else get lined up. It’s kind of a little bit of pressure off me. But you know, it didn’t really matter either way. [Mason] did it before and he’s back doing it again so he’s going to do a great job.”
The move isn’t a know on David. In fact, David plays at a high level and is all over the field. removing him from caling the plays had nothing to do with his on-field ability. So why the change?
The middle linebacker is typically the defense’s play caller across all NFL teams. Head coach Lovie Smith explains that the mike linebacker needs to be seen at the front of the defense, giving him the responsibility of calling the plays in the defensive huddle.
“Our mike linebacker will make our calls,” Smith said. “As a general rule, I think if you’re the mike linebacker, they need to see you out front most of the time, all the time. [Former Buccaneers linebacker and current linebackers coach] Hardy Nickerson would look at you a little differently than I’m looking at you if you ask if the mike linebacker is going to make the call. He should do that, just like the quarterback should make the call on the offensive side of the ball.”
Smith would also go on to say that during three wide receiver sets, the team may alternate and have David calling the plays for the defense. That setup is similar to the previous regime sending Foster to the sidelines during three receiver sets.
If you’d like to hear the audio of the Foster and David interviews, you can find them below.
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