By Tom Krasniqi
Tuesday’s practice brought more intensity than usual. Guys were hitting. Play was a bit chippy. The weather was again hot and humid. The players have been going at each other’s throats since Day 1 of training camp.
The live goal line session towards the end of practice was especially intense. During one play, running back Doug Martin went off left tackle and collided with middle linebacker Mason Foster at the goal line. Martin crossed the goal line and scored. The defense was not so sure.
“I don’t think he got in,” Foster said emphatically. “I think he was stopped.”
Even though it’s only a practice, these guys are getting after it. Nobody wants to be embarrassed— especially in a live drill with tackling.
“There are a lot of good players on this team,” Foster said after Tuesday’s practice. “A lot of guys are making plays so the competition is really high— so guys are gonna get mad. You’re getting beat, everybody is getting beat. Everybody is in there hitting, getting physical. It gets real chippy out there.”
Everyone knows the middle linebacker is a key cog in Lovie Smith’s defense. The ‘Mike’ has a lot of responsibility— he makes the calls on defense. He also must be adept at dropping in pass coverage deep down the middle of the field.
Those tasks now rest on the shoulders of Foster. And he’s up to the challenge.
“After being thrown in [starting spot] my rookie year— getting used to playing the ‘Mike’ the last couple of years, it’s something I look forward to,” Foster stated. “I love making the calls and being in front of the huddle.”
Some believed Foster may not be a great fit in pass coverage. But don’t forget— Foster returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season, including an 85 yarder against Drew Brees and the Saints.
“I feel good, I feel comfortable out there,” Foster said.
Foster played at around 245 pounds last season. During the offseason, Foster dropped about 8 pounds to get quicker and more athletic so he can drop into coverage with ease. He’s now at around 236 pounds. Foster also worked closely with linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson pass coverage.
After nearly two weeks of camp, Foster says it’s time to hit somebody else.
“Definitely man,” Foster said. “You kind of get tired of hitting the same guys you’ve been seeing everyday.”
That moment is almost here. Foster and the Bucs will get their chance on Friday night in the preseason opener at Jacksonville.
News & notes:
- CBs Alterraun Verner (hamstring) and Mike Jenkins (leg) did not practice again. WR Tommy Streeter and DE Da’Quan Bowers also sat out.
- According to reports, the team and recently released Carl Nicks agreed on an injury settlement package worth more than $3-million in compensation and other considerations.
- QB Josh McCown looked real sharp early on in 11 on 11s. He completed 5 straight passes, including a long one down the seam to WR Chris Owusu.
- Goal line session at the end of practice was intense. DL Ronald Talley delivered a big blow to RB Mike James. Doug Martin had three straight 1-yard TD runs.
- The team released its first official depth chart. Oniel Cousins is listed as the starter at LG with Jamon Meredith at RG. Head coach Lovie Smith: “Don’t put too much into the depth chart.”
- Owusu is listed as the starter ahead of rookie Mike Evans. Evans is having an inconsistent camp but he should end up as the starter before long.
- At running back, Doug Martin is the starter. Bobby Rainey is the second string RB, followed by rookie Charles Sims and then it’s Mike James/Jeff Demps.
- At the tight end position, Brandon Myers is atop the depth chart, followed by Tim Wright, Luke Stocker and then rookie Austin Seferian-Jenkins is the 4th stringer. That won’t last. The Bucs love ASJ’s skill set.
- On defense, Da’Quan Bowers is listed as the backup to DT Gerald McCoy.
- Mike Jenkins is the starter at CB ahead of Johnthan Banks. Leonard Johnson is listed as the starting nickel CB.
- On special teams, Eric Page is listed as the starting kick and punt returner. Bobby Rainey is the backup at PR and Jeff Demps is listed as the #2 KR.
- Bucs signed former USF DE Ryne Giddins and DE James Ruffin. They waived injured LB Jeremy Grable and S Mycal Swaim.
- The Bucs will practice again at One Buc Place on Wednesday from 2pm to 4:30pm and it is NOT open to the public. For more details on practice times, check out 620wdae.com and buccaneers.com.
- Keep it locked on 620am WDAE and 95.3FM as well as the Bucs blog at 620wdae.com for the best Bucs coverage.