Challenges come with Bucs' Foster leaving lineup in passing situations
The Bucs are going to great lengths to help – or, hide, some might argue – Mason Foster in certain situations as the rookie prepares to take over at middle linebacker.
As coach Raheem Morris said this week, Foster won’t be in the game in the nickel package, used predominantly in obvious passing situations and on third down. Because Foster is still so new to the defense, he would be at an even greater disadvantage by having to play on third down against a variety of offensive fronts he likely has never seen. He also would be responsible for a lot more pass coverage, also something that’s somewhat new to him.
So, in such instances, strong-side linebacker Quincy Black will slide over and man the middle linebacker position (the strong-side backer usually exits in the nickel package in exchange for an extra cornerback). This is pretty much unprecedented for Tampa Bay. Middle linebackers in the Tampa 2 defense have historically never left the field, so this dramatic change of course presents some challenges, including one of a technological nature.
The middle linebacker typically wears the coach-to-defense helmet transmitter that’s now in use in the NFL. Because the middle linebacker makes the defensive calls, it’s only logical that he should be the one listening to the defensive coordinator (in this case, Morris).
Foster, who is succeeding four-year starter Barrett Ruud, is going to wear the headset, according to Morris. When Foster leaves the game, the transmitter will go with him.
That will leave the Bucs in a situation where they’ll have to go old school on third downs, signaling defensive calls in to Black, who will relay them to teammates in the huddle. The transmitter makes life simpler and reduces the likelihood of miscommunications. Without one, and without a true middle linebacker in the game to make the calls, are the Bucs more susceptible to miscues? That remains to be seen.
Either way, this is far from an ideal situation for the Bucs’ defense. It’s just one of many things to monitor as Tampa Bay makes its preseason debut Friday night at Kansas City.