2014 Bucs Camp Preview: Linebackers
LEADER OF THE PACK: Lavonte David
After a solid rookie season, David elevated his game in 2013 locking up his first All-Pro selection. He is the total package playing the will linebacker spot. He possesses incredible speed with uncanny instincts that allow him to make impact plays all over the field. 145 combined tackles, 7 sacks, 5 INTs and 2 forced fumbles got him much notoriety around the league with comparisons to Hall of Fame inductee Derrick Brooks. And being placed in the Cover 2 should only aide him as his career rolls on.
ALL EYES ON: Mason Foster
There were times last year where Foster shined and made big plays, including perhaps the best pick six of 2013 in Week 2 against the Saints. But he had a drop off in tackles from 2012, and struggled a bit in the run game. It will be interested to see how he adjusts to the new scheme. But having new linebackers coach and Buccaneer great Hardy Nickerson to learn from should give Foster a boost.
X-FACTOR: Strong Side Linebacker
There hasn’t been a solidified starter at the sam linebacker spot the last couple years. Jonathan Casillas and Dekoda Watson shared time back and forth in 2013. With Watson off to Jacksonville, and Casillas back on a 1-year deal, this position is up for grabs. It will be interesting to see if Dane Fletcher or Ka’lial Glaud can challenge Casillas for that spot as training camp progresses.
CAMP OBJECTIVE: Set The Tone
Lovie Smith puts a lot of stock in his defense, and will ask more from his linebackers than any other group. They are expected to be the quarterbacks of the defense, giving direction and being the hardest workers on and off the field. Given Lovie’s and Nickerson’s reputations, David and Foster in particular should thrive in the Tampa 2. The question is, will the others behind them do the same?