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Bucs' young linebackers Lavonte David, Mason Foster form formidable pair

TAMPA

As roommates on the road at the team hotel, Bucs linebackers Lavonte David and Mason Foster talk a lot of smack.

It usually begins on Saturday afternoons with conversations about their college teams, Nebraska and U-Dub (Washington), disrespectfully.

The fact that David says anything at all might be shocking. Much of the week, when not on the field or in meetings, the rookie sits alone, facing his locker, studying a playbook or scrolling through his smartphone.

"I try to have a little fun here and there, but most of the time, I'm a quiet guy," said David, a second-round pick out of Nebraska in April. "I don't know why. That's just my personality. I'm not shy. That's just how it is.

"I have fun, too. I'm a human being."

Perhaps no Bucs are having more fun this season than these young linebackers. Human? More like tackling machines.

Foster, who lines up in the middle, has a 43-41 edge over David, who lines up on the weakside, for the team lead in tackles. Both have seven stops for loss. Foster has an interception and a pass defensed.

"We're getting comfortable on and off the field," said Foster, a third-round pick out of Washington in 2011. "He's one of my good friends on the team. He's a funny dude. We just sit there, go over stuff and talk about how we're going to play. It's been a lot of fun.

"Let's just go play, lock in and do what we can to stop the run."

The Bucs are fourth in the league in rushing defense, allowing only 75 yards per game. The speed of David, nicknamed "Flash," is a big factor.

"That's all you see is a flash and the ball carrier is down," Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said.

Foster, 23, struggled a bit as a rookie last season when he was thrust into the starting lineup, particularly because the lockout did not permit him to enter One Buc Place until the start of training camp.

After watching how quickly David, 22, adjusted to the pro game, defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan gave him the helmet communicator and put him in charge of making the play calls.

"It's tough. That's what I tell him," Foster said. "It's hard enough to play special teams as a rookie let alone be on defense and making calls. I tell him you can never really be wrong. No matter what you're doing, do it at 100 mph. Be wrong fast, and it'll make you right.

"I played the same way (as a rookie). Just play as hard as you can, and the rest will take care of itself. We'll learn as we go."

Sheridan says what David and Foster lack in experience, they more than make up for with instincts. Both are solid tacklers and nimble enough to function in coverage.

"If nothing else, he's put a bunch of deluxe hits on film for people to look at," Sheridan said of David. "I think that's very contagious on our defense."

The scary thing to consider is how good David and Foster might be after they play together for four or five seasons.

"They're playing really fast," said Pete Prisco, an NFL writer for cbssports.com. "The quickness (David) plays with reminds me — and I know the Bucs are going to get crazy when I say this — it reminds me of (Derrick) Brooks.

"Foster last year seemed to be thinking too much and not reacting. And now he's much faster to the football and reacting much better."

As a result, the Bucs defense, 30th overall last season, is much better, too.

"He's a funny dude, man," Foster said of David. "At first he was kind of quiet. But I'm with him all the time. So we're in the room, watching Nebraska or watching U-Dub, talking a lot of trash.

"But I love him. I love him. He's a great guy to be around. He keeps energy on the field and makes a lot of plays, so you've got to love that."

Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

Mason Foster

2012 season

43

Tackles, a team high

7

Tackles for loss

1

Interception

Lavonte David

2012 season

41

Tackles, second on the team

7

Tackles for loss

. fast facts

Lavonte David

Position: Weakside linebacker

Height/weight: 6-1; 233

Age: 22

College: Nebraska

Collegiate highlight: First-team All-American as a senior

Acquired: Second-round pick in April (58th overall)

Mason Foster

Position: Middle linebacker

Height/weight: 6-1; 241

Age: 23

College: Washington

Collegiate highlight: Defensive MVP of the 2010 Holiday Bowl

Acquired: Third-round pick in 2011 (84th overall)

Bucs' young linebackers Lavonte David, Mason Foster form formidable pair 10/20/12 [Last modified: Saturday, October 20, 2012 7:22pm]

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