Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Mason Foster

TAMPA, Fla. – Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster gave a ringing endorsement to the man who is likely to take his place in the starting lineup Thursday night.

Fletcher
Foster is expected to sit out with a dislocated shoulder. That means Dane Fletcher likely will get the start.

“Dane is a veteran,’’ Foster said. “He’s a proven player in this league. He had a great camp and he’s ready to go. He’s a great linebacker. He’s going to step in and make it happen.’’

Fletcher will call the defensive plays. That’s something he did when he stepped in for Foster during Sunday’s loss to St. Louis. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said he has confidence in Fletcher.

“When Dane got in the ball game [Sunday], he did some good things,’’ Frazier said. “It’s tough when you’re not getting as many reps in practice on some of the things you have to do in the game. But, for the most part, we were pleased with his work. With this week being a short week, he still won’t get as many reps. But he’ll be able to get some film study and prepare and I think he’ll go out and play well Thursday night.’’

Bucs promote LB Brandon Magee

September, 15, 2014
Sep 15
6:29
PM ET
Magee
TAMPA, Fla. -- In what could be a sign that middle linebacker Mason Foster may miss some playing time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers added a linebacker Monday afternoon.

Brandon Magee was promoted from the practice squad. Magee appeared in eight games for the Cleveland Browns last year. To make room for Magee, the Bucs waived cornerback Rashaan Melvin with an injury settlement. Melvin had been sidelined by an ankle injury since the preseason. The Bucs filled Magee's spot on the practice squad by signing linebacker Ka'Lial Glaud, who was with the team last year and this preseason.

Foster suffered a shoulder injury in Sunday's loss to St. Louis. Dane Fletcher is the primary backup to Foster, but adding Magee gives the Bucs more depth at the position.
TAMPA, Fla. -- One of the stranger quirks in the NFL is the injury report for a Thursday night game.

McCoy
McCoy
Teams are required to put out an injury report on Monday. But that report generally is hypothetical because teams usually don’t practice on Mondays. So the report is an estimate of players who would not have practiced if there was practice.

Tampa Bay’s hypothetical report contained three players that would not have practiced. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (hand) and middle linebacker Mason Foster (shoulder) suffered injuries during Sunday’s game. Rookie tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (ankle) did not play Sunday and also was on the injured list.

McCoy and Foster declined to talk to the media during Monday’s open locker room period. McCoy first was seen with nothing on his hand and it was visibly swollen. A few minutes later, McCoy was seen with wrapping on his hand.

Coach Lovie Smith said it’s possible McCoy could have his hand placed in a cast, but that’s not the first priority.

“That is an option,’’ Smith said. “Some positions, you can get by with that. On the defensive line, it’s a lot harder to do. You need to be able to grip and hold. Yes, that’s an option. But, hopefully, we won’t have to go that far down the road with it, but we’ll see.’’

If McCoy is unable to play Thursday against Atlanta, Smith said the Bucs would employ a three-man rotation that would include Clinton McDonald, Akeem Spence and Da’Quan Bowers as the defensive tackles. If Foster can’t play, Dane Fletcher would be the likely starter.

Bucs want a home-field advantage

September, 3, 2014
Sep 3
2:04
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TAMPA, Fla. -- It’s pretty obvious Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith has been talking to his team about the importance of winning at home.

Without any particular prompting from the media, three different team leaders said one of this season’s goals is to go undefeated at Raymond James Stadium.

"Something that Lovie is preaching is that we want to win the home games," quarterback Josh McCown said. "You’ve got to win the home games and have a home-field advantage. The fans are important to us, getting them behind us and with us. We know part of that is winning early and giving them somebody they can get behind so that we can build and we can make Raymond James a tough place to play."

Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said the fact the season starts Sunday against NFC South rival Carolina isn’t the only motivation for the Bucs.

"Another motivation is we’re at home," McCoy said. "We want to go undefeated at home. It’s going to take our fans. We really, really need a home-field advantage this year because we have a really talented team. Our fans coming out and helping us, we need that."

Although attendance hasn’t been great in recent years, middle linebacker Mason Foster said he’s always felt a home-field advantage and believes it can be even stronger this year.

"We know how loud that stadium can get and how much the noise and energy from that crowd can help you win close games," Foster said. "We need the fans to bring it and they always have. We need to make it a real home-field advantage."
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Since his arrival in Tampa Bay, we’ve heard coach Lovie Smith talk a lot about “Buc Ball". But what that meant exactly never was very clear.

On Saturday, we started to get a picture of what Smith’s been talking about. His defense produced three turnovers and a touchdown in a 27-14 preseason victory against the Buffalo Bills. The offense wasn’t spectacular but it was opportunistic.

Clinton McDonald
Bill Wippert/Associated PressClinton McDonald returned a fumble for a touchdown against the Buffalo Bills on Saturday.
“I talk about a full game," Smith said. “When I say full game I’m talking about offense, defense and special teams. We talk a lot about taking the ball away. We talk about scoring on defense. It’s not a good defensive game unless we’re able to do that. I thought the defense did a great job of setting the tempo on what type of day it will be.’’

Linebacker Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble that was recovered by Mason Foster. That set up a quick touchdown by the offense. In the second quarter, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald scored a touchdown after picking up a fumble that was caused by an Adrian Clayborn sack and a Michael Johnson strip.

Is that what Buc Ball is all about?

“Yeah, man," All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “The defense takes the ball away and puts it back in the offense’s hands and the offense puts it in the end zone. That’s kind of what we want to do. It felt good and we want to keep that going. It felt good to actually see it come alive today and now we have to take this into next week and into the regular season.’’

It had been difficult to see any signs of Smith’s philosophy in the first two preseason games, both losses. The Bucs produced only one turnover and the offense was largely ineffective.

But the offense showed some promise against the Bills. With some of the starters playing into the third quarter, the Bucs built a 24-0 lead before the backups let the Bills back in the game. Quarterback Josh McCown completed 13 of 16 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Doug Martin rushed 12 times for 38 yards, Vincent Jackson had five catches and rookie Mike Evans had three receptions, including one for a touchdown.

That’s a pretty good sample of what Tampa Bay’s offense is going to look like.

“I think we had 17 rushes in the first half," Smith said. “That’s what we want to do. To be a running football team you need to have attempts as much as anything."

We haven’t seen all of Buc Ball yet because the team likely is keeping tricks up its sleeve for the regular season. But what we saw Saturday was a rough outline of the type of product Smith wants to put on the field.

Observation Deck: Buccaneers

August, 23, 2014
Aug 23
7:38
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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said earlier this week that he wanted to see more sacks and takeaways. Mission accomplished.

Tampa Bay’s first-team defense forced three turnovers in Saturday’s 27-14 victory against the Buffalo Bills at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

Lavonte David forced a first-quarter fumble by C.J. Spiller that was recovered by Mason Foster. Tampa Bay’s offense punched the ball in for a quick touchdown. Tampa Bay’s offense was far from spectacular, but the defense more than made up for it.

The defense produced a touchdown of its own. As Adrian Clayborn sacked Buffalo quarterback EJ Manuel, Michael Johnson reached in and knocked the ball loose. Defensive tackle Clinton McDonald picked the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 8:21 left in the second quarter.

All of Buffalo’s points came in the second half after Tampa Bay’s starting defense had left the game. The Bucs held a 24-0 lead at halftime.

Some other observations:
  • Tampa Bay’s offense hadn’t been putting together long drives this preseason. That finally changed late in the second quarter. The Bucs had an 11-play drive that covered 82 yards and ended with a touchdown pass from Josh McCown to Mike Evans. That shows the Bucs can sustain a drive. But it’s important to remember that we’ve seen only a very small sampling of coordinator Jeff Tedford’s offense. The Bucs are saving most of that for the regular season.
  • I’ve got a feeling what we saw Saturday will be repeated a lot during the regular season. The Bucs played fantastic defense and were rather ordinary (but opportunistic) on offense. That’s not flashy, but that fits Smith’s philosophy perfectly.
  • Smith said he wanted to take an early look at recently acquired defensive end Larry English. He did, putting English into the game early. He responded with two sacks. The former first-round pick by San Diego still faces an uphill battle to make the team but might be gaining ground on Da'Quan Bowers, who missed the game with a groin injury.
  • Smith said he wanted to play his starters into the third quarter. He did play his starting offense into the second half, with one notable exception. Backup quarterback Mike Glennon replaced McCown to start the third quarter. That was a smart move. With the offensive line still a work in progress, there’s no sense in exposing McCown to possible injury before the regular season starts.
  • Linebacker Jonathan Casillas did not play for the Bucs. He was held out for a disciplinary reason, according to a team official. Danny Lansanah got the start in his place and played well. Lansanah has had a strong preseason and appears to have secured a roster spot.

Buccaneers Camp Report: Day 5

July, 30, 2014
Jul 30
8:32
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TAMPA, Fla. -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp:
  • The defense dominated the first few days of camp, but Wednesday was the best showing by the offense so far. There were two players in particular that stood out. Quarterback Josh McCown and wide receiver Vincent Jackson showed they’ve developed some chemistry. They hooked up on a pass play of about 50 yards and connected for back-to-back touchdowns in red-zone drills. “They have to have good chemistry," coach Lovie Smith said. “Vincent’s our No. 1 receiver. We’re banking on him making a lot of plays. The chemistry or whatever you want to call it between he and Josh has to be good. Vince is a playmaker. You get down there, you have to get the ball into your playmaker’s hands. We did that today on more than one occasion, which is great." McCown had his best practice by far. I only saw him make one bad throw, and that was intercepted in the end zone by strong safety Mark Barron.
  • Wednesday was the most physical practice of camp so far. There were at least four minor altercations. “We don’t want a lot of fights," Smith said. “In a game, they throw you out of the game and that’s not good. Getting ready for the season, we want it to be as game like as possible. If you do feel you have to mix it up with a guy, fight him the way you would fight your brother. No cheap shots or anything like that."
  • There’s been some concern among fans about whether or not Mason Foster can handle the increased amount of pass coverage the Bucs are going to ask out of their middle linebacker in the Cover Two defense. Foster dropped some weight in the offseason to increase his quickness and has made a good early impression on Smith. “He’s growing into the position," Smith said. “He couldn’t have a better tutor than (linebackers coach and former Bucs middle linebacker) Hardy Nickerson."
  • Starter Doug Martin has looked very good at running back, but he’s not the only one. Third-round draft pick Charles Sims has made some nice cuts in the last few practices and also has shown he can catch the ball out of the backfield. I think Sims might have a shot to be the top backup to Martin. “He’s a scholarship player, looking at it in college terms," Smith said. “He’s not a walk-on. He got his scholarship for a reason."
  • There hasn’t been much talk about the fullback position. For the record, Jorvorskie Lane has been running with the first team.
  • The Bucs signed cornerback Kip Edwards to fill the roster spot that was created when guard Carl Nicks departed from the team. The team officially released Nicks on Wednesday.
  • Cornerback Alterraun Verner missed another day of practice with a hamstring injury, but Smith said Verner is getting closer to being able to return.
TAMPA, Fla. – You might be seeing less of Mason Foster right now. But that only means you’ll see more of him during the regular season.

Foster
The fourth-year middle linebacker has a different look after losing seven pounds in the offseason.

“I went on a diet, eating a lot of vegetables, a lot of turkey burgers,’’ Foster said. “It was tough at first, but I got used to and it’s paid off.’’

Foster said he now weighs 235 pounds, and that’s no accident. The coaching staff told Foster to slim down.

“We acknowledged that as a football team we needed to lose some weight,’’ coach Lovie Smith said. “Guys did that. We want strong linebackers who can run. I just think weight is one of the most overrated things there is. Strength isn’t, weight is. The lighter we are, the quicker and faster we’ll be.’’

The Bucs need Foster to be quicker. Although he still is playing middle linebacker, the duties of that position are different in Smith’s defense. Foster will be asked to drop into pass coverage more often and that’s why the coaching staff wanted him to slim down.

“I feel a lot quicker, a lot lighter on my feet,’’ Foster said. “I feel better all around. Now that I’m eating right I just feel a lot better.’’
The next stop on our pre-camp position-by-position overview of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is linebacker.

David
This could be a position of strength for the Bucs. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David already is one of the best in the league and he’s just entering his prime. David’s presence alone makes the Bucs respectable at linebacker. But they could end up being much better than respectable.

One of the keys will be how Mason Foster adapts to changes at middle linebacker. Foster is going to be asked to drop in pass coverage more than he has in the past. If he can handle that role, that will be a big boost to the linebacker corps. Foster also will call the defensive signals.

Jonathan Casillas is the front runner to start on the strong side. Dane Fletcher is the top backup linebacker, and he quickly could become a candidate to start if Foster struggles. Ka'Lial Glaud and Danny Lansanah are next in line as backups, but they’ll need to contribute on special teams to secure roster spots.

Buccaneers who need big camps

July, 14, 2014
Jul 14
1:21
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With the start of training camp only a little more than a week away, let’s take a look at three Buccaneers who need to have big camps to make sure they’re in the starting lineup on opening day.

Clayborn
Clayborn
Defensive end Adrian Clayborn: He will be one of the most closely watched players in camp. Clayborn’s a former first-round pick and still has upside. But his first three seasons have been nothing special. Maybe a new coaching staff can get more out of him. But Clayborn’s draft status means nothing to the current regime. The Bucs also will be looking at the likes of William Gholston, Da’Quan Bowers and Steven Means opposite free-agent pickup Charles Johnson. If one of them steps up, the starting job might not belong to Clayborn.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster: He’s the odds-on favorite to keep the starting job and call the defensive signals. But Foster first must show he can handle increased duties as a pass defender. Very quietly the team signed Dane Fletcher, who can play the middle. If Foster stumbles, Fletcher could end up starting.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins: Unlike Clayborn and Foster, Seferian-Jenkins is wed to the current regime. He was a second-round draft pick and that alone should make him a strong candidate to be a starter on opening day. But Seferian-Jenkins had a unique offseason, and that’s why he needs a big training camp. Thanks to NCAA and NFL rules, Seferian-Jenkins wasn’t allowed to take part in the offseason program because of a rule that keeps players from taking part until their college's semester is over. The University of Washington, where Seferian-Jenkins played, is on a quarters system, and that got in the way. Seferian-Jenkins missed out on some valuable practice time and that could put him behind Brandon Myers, Luke Stocker and Tim Wright.
Lovie Smith’s Chicago Bears were a consistent contender because they played strong defense. The coach will try to get the same result with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and the ingredients are there for that to happen.

David
McCoy
McCoy
Smith inherited some special talent in defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David. Both are just reaching their prime. Smith has compared McCoy to Warren Sapp and David to Derrick Brooks. Sapp and Brooks were the keys to the defense during Tampa Bay’s glory days. The Bucs believe McCoy and David can fill the same roles in the new generation and that a strong defense will help make the franchise relevant again.

McCoy and David are going to be good for years to come and they form a strong foundation. But the Bucs will need some complementary players to come through for this defense to be really good. Defensive end Michael Johnson was brought in as a free agent because the Bucs believe he can bring pressure from the outside. If he does, that’s only going to help McCoy and Clinton McDonald in the middle.

A strong pass rush will only help a secondary that has good potential, but hasn’t hit it yet. Alterraun Verner was brought in to be the No. 1 cornerback, but the Bucs need Johnthan Banks and Mike Jenkins to step up as the other cornerback and nickelback. Safeties Dashon Goldson and Mark Barron have talent and can form a nice tandem.

Middle linebacker Mason Foster is going to get a chance to play a more significant role than he has in the past. Foster will call the defensive plays and be asked to drop into coverage more than he did in his first three seasons.

This defense will be the key factor in determining if Smith’s regime will succeed. The offense can be average, but the defense has to be special.

Top 15 Buccaneers: No. 11

June, 27, 2014
Jun 27
8:00
AM ET
We continue our list of the top 15 Buccaneers with No. 11:

Mason Foster, middle linebacker

What he did in 2013: Foster started 13 games at middle linebacker for Tampa Bay. He produced 92 tackles, one forced fumble and three interceptions.

Why he’s No. 11 in 2014: Foster’s first three seasons in the NFL have been productive, but far from spectacular. In coach Lovie Smith’s defense, Foster will get a chance to shine. Hardy Nickerson and Brian Urlacher previously were stars in the middle of Smith’s defense. Foster will call the defensive plays, something he last did as a rookie. He also will be asked to drop into pass coverage more frequently than he has in the past. But the Bucs believe Foster is ready to match up with tight ends and running backs in coverage.
We already knew the Buccaneers would have a new look on defense. They’re going with the Tampa 2 system.

But this defense also will have a new sound. That’s because someone different will be calling the defensive plays. Middle linebacker Mason Foster now will fill that role. Weakside linebacker Lavonte David wore the radio helmet and called the plays the last two season. But Foster has called the defensive plays in the past.

“I did it my rookie year and we had a lockout that year,” Foster said. “I’m used to it. It’ll be a smooth transition. Real smooth.’’

The switch is being made because coach Lovie Smith prefers to have his middle linebacker calling the plays. That likely means the Bucs are counting on Foster to be an every-down linebacker.

That could be a challenge because Foster hasn’t had to spend a lot of time in pass coverage in the past. But he’ll be asked to do that in this scheme.

Can Foster handle the increase in pass coverage? Smith must think so or else he wouldn’t be giving Foster the radio helmet.
It’s time to continue our pre-draft position-by-position look at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the linebackers.

Where things stand: On the weak side, Lavonte David has emerged as one of the best young linebackers in the NFL. He should stand out even more in the new defensive scheme. It’s the same system in which weak-side linebacker Derrick Brooks had a Hall of Fame career. David makes the other linebackers around him better and that’s good news for Mason Foster in the middle and Jonathan Casillas on the strong side. Foster will call the defensive signals and he needs to show he can handle more pass coverage than he’s had to in the past. Casillas has the potential to have a good impact, but needs to show he can stay healthy. Beyond the three starters, there’s not a lot of depth at linebacker.

What to watch for: Linebacker isn’t likely to be a position where the Bucs use an early draft pick because they’re in good shape with their starters. But they could use a later draft pick on a linebacker, particularly if he can play special teams.

Minicamp questions for the Bucs

April, 22, 2014
Apr 22
8:00
AM ET
As the Tampa Bay Buccaneers begin a three-day minicamp Tuesday, let's explore some of the biggest questions facing the team.

Is there really a competition at quarterback? Not in minicamp, where most of the time is spent installing the offense. Josh McCown will get the first-team work and Mike Glennon will work with the second team. If Glennon is going to have any chance at surpassing McCown, he’ll have to thoroughly outplay him in training camp and the preseason. Unless the Bucs draft a quarterback in the first round, this is McCown’s job to lose.

Will the offensive line be better? It probably can’t be worse than last year when the line’s play was a major disappointment. The Bucs blew up that line and they’ve overhauled it with additions like left tackle Anthony Collins and center Evan Dietrich-Smith. Still, the biggest question is whether guard Carl Nicks, who missed almost all of last season with an injury, can get back to full strength. If Nicks is totally healthy, he might be the best guard in the game and he makes everyone around him better.

Who starts at wide receiver opposite Vincent Jackson? Let’s be brutally honest. That player isn’t on the roster yet. The Bucs may open minicamp with someone like veteran Louis Murphy running with the first team. But Murphy will be competing for the fourth or fifth receiver spot before all is said and done. This team still needs to add a second and third wide receiver.

Who’s the tight end? The answer to that one may come in plural form. Tim Wright did some nice things as a rookie last season. But Wright is limited as a blocker. That’s why the Bucs brought in Brandon Myers. He can contribute as a blocker and a receiver. The Bucs aren’t likely to use a fullback very often, which means there could be a lot of two-tight-end sets.

Aside from Lavonte David, what’s the situation at linebacker? David is set as the weakside starter, which is the most important linebacker spot in coach Lovie Smith’s defense. Mason Foster is the favorite to remain the starter in the middle, but he needs to show he can drop into coverage much more frequently than he’s done in the past. Jonathan Casillas appears to be the favorite to start on the strong side.

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