Middle Linebacker Crop Is Weak

February 28th, 2015

lovie 1110bSo who’s going to play middle linebacker for the Buccaneers?

Likely soon-to-be free agent Mason Foster is not that ideal cover guy Lovie Smith needs.

That was obvious last year. And now word out of Atlanta, via BSPN, is that Foster will be pursued by Dan Quinn, Raheem Morris and the new Falcons regime.

The Cowboys’ MLB stud Rolando McClain? He’s likely to be a free agent but seems like too much of a freak show.

And then there’s the NFL Draft. Would Tampa Bay really draft a middle linebacker candidate atop the second round when they are desperate for young help on the offensive line?

These are big questions.

Former NFL scout and current NFL Network draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has given a thumbs down to this year’s linebackers class.

In a post-Combine podcast, Jeremiah talked about how “inside linebacker not a very good position,” and he projects none to be first round picks.

Jeremiah is down on Miami middle linebacker Denzel Perryman, who he said looked slow and sluggish through the NFL Scouting Combine field work and checked in under 5 feet 11 inches.

“You better be able to match up against tight ends and backs,” Jeremiah said, in a discussion about the role of linebacker evolving in a passing league.

Remember, Lovie Smith is a Combine guy who loves times and workouts. That can’t spell good news for Perryman, who is favored by many Bucs fans.

It’ll be interesting to see how the Bucs proceed. Danny Lansanah, if he’s not in Lovie Smith’s doghouse, could be the choice for next season while a later-round rookie comes in to develop. And there’s always a chance Foster tests free agency and returns to the Bucs on a one-year deal.

59 Responses to “Middle Linebacker Crop Is Weak”

  1. LargoSamIM Says:

    hey Joe…how about this kid – Eric Kendricks – out of UCLA ? From what I’ve seen, he’s very good in coverage and is always around the ball…. just a thought 9suggestion ?)

  2. buccin.cane Says:

    Or what about aj hawk on a 1 yr incentives based contract… think hes old as hell hence the one yr suggestion

  3. Arealbucsfan Says:

    Benardrick McKinney

  4. Jason Says:

    I agree with our need for OL help, but I’ve read in a couple of places that there aren’t any high-tier OL in this draft (high first round), but there is a lot of value to be had in the middle rounds. So I’d be good with getting a good MLB with our 2nd round pick, then shoring up OL in the subsequent rounds.

  5. bottomline Says:

    Take the tcu guy in the 2nd and sign harris to mentor

  6. Jim Says:

    If we could score 24 points a game than we can use a MLB like Foster who maybe average at best and will probably get burned by a TE during the game. If our D can keep the other team to 17-21 points, we win.

  7. Martinii Says:

    I personally think it might be a mistake to let Foster go. I think he has proven himself over the last few years. After all two of the most exciting plays we’ve seen in recent memory was Foster rambling into the end zone. He is a good tackler, knows the system and I am one that believes that Lovie doesn’t call cover 2 on every passing down. We need a better pass rush. Everyone wants to get rid of him, but i think he is the least of our problems. pick up a good back-up in the draft and add a decent corner. Keep Mason….

  8. LargoSamIM Says:

    I am kinda a linebacker geek – played that position. Back in 2012, I was beating the drum for Luke Kuechly. H went 9th to Carolina – we (Bucs) took Mark Barron at 7th pick. Now, here I am again, beating the drum for another MLB – Eric Kendricks from UCLA. Same type of ‘backer as Kuechly – always around the ball, good in coverage, won the Butkus award….. a “little undersized” … but I think his attributes compare VERY WELL to Kuechly…. I wish I could get someone’s ear/eye over at One Buc…. I feel almost as strongly about this opinion as I did back in 2012….. any chance you (Joes) have someone’s (casual) ear at One Buc….. just for a look-see ??????

  9. The only Buc fan in Montana Says:

    I like the idea of keeping Foster, maybe move him over? In the draft I like McKinney or Kendricks, Dawson would be a steal if he does fall to us. O-Line can be done 3rd and 4th (although if Erving is there in the 2nd go for it), heck if we trade Glennon for a 3rd there could be two right there!

  10. The only ^Other Buc fan in Montana Says:

    Forgot to change my name, with respect to knuckledragger lol…

  11. ddneast Says:

    The problem is not only with Mason’s coverage down the middle, but also how he covers the gaps in the seams. Against the Ravens he was totally lost and was responsible for two of the three early TD’s.
    He really isn’t that good of an MLB and just another bust of a draft pick by Dummynickmwho listened to much to radio call in shows. Thanks to you too, Ian Buckles who thought Rudd was a bad MLB but actually pretty good and excellent in coverage. Rudd just had a hard time playing the offensive line and the RB at the same time since our DL was getting blown off the ball at the time.

  12. Destinjohnny Says:

    It was shocking how many people on this site were backing foster…

  13. Dewey Selmon Says:

    What about Lansanah at MLB? Draft or pick up a SAM. We have zero depth at the LB also.

  14. Kalind Says:

    I’ve been pimping Benardrick McKinney. He’s alright, a little stuff but has great size and decent speed. Perryman is too slow, and too small. Someone mentioned Kendricks. He MIGHT be ok. Little small though. We’d have two Lavonte sized guys out there, and while Lavonte is obviously Great, I not sure we want two tiny LBs out there.

  15. Canadian Bacon Says:

    I could see the bucs liking Clemson MLB Stephone Anthony. He’s the prototypical size and was near the top in everything at the combine. Ran in the 4.5 region. He would be a reach at our current 2nd round pick but could be a fit in the third or a trade back

  16. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Denzel Perryman!!!

  17. PRBucFan Says:

    Perryman was a standout at senior week lol

    Combine my ass.

    His game tape doesn’t lie

  18. INDYbucsfan Says:

    Move foster outside- his natural position and get the kid from UCLA.

  19. LargoSamIM Says:


    I agree 1000% ! Foster was never considered as a MLB – I think he’d be fine as the SAM. I am REALLY sold on this Kendrick kid from UCLA – reminds me ALOT of Kuechly ! maybe not Def POY but a really good tackler, always around the ball, real good in coverage – he is definitely a KEEPER. I have no doubt he will have a successful NFL career…. got his head on straight too !

  20. Joseph Mamma Says:

    Hey Joe, I know you like Gil Brandt right? His take, which I agree with: Mariota is the smarter and better long-term option over Winston.

  21. LargoBuc Says:

    Finding a quality Mike is going to be almost as important as choosing our QB. If we have no pass rush, again, and a Mike who is still learning the system our defense will almost certainly take a step backwards.
    I wouldn’t mind if Foster got brought back for a year or two only because there’s not much out there in terms of an upgrade. Foster certainly isn’t at his best when covering deep. But he is young. He has a year in this defense under his belt. Plus he knows all the verbiage and is used to wearing the headset at the NFL level. Keep him with a modest contract. Draft a young Mike to develop and add depth. By default Foster is probably the best short term option right now.

  22. SOEbuc Says:


  23. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Not worried about Denzel Perryman playing in a Cover 2, because we ask our linebackers to play ZONE coverage no man.

    Long as he can ball–its all good


    • Vontaze Burfict LB (5.09)
    • Rey Maualuga LB (4.86)
    • Stephen Tulloch LB (4.84)
    • Lofa Tatupu LB (4.83)
    • Chris Borland LB (4.83)
    • James Laurinaitis LB (4.81)
    • Akeem Ayers LB (4.81)
    • Brandon Marshall LB (4.81)
    • Sean Lee LB (4.80)

    • Curtis Lofton LB (4.79)
    • Denzel Perryman LB (4.78) <–Draft'em
    • Navorro Bowman LB (4.77)
    • Chad Greenway LB (4.76)
    • Barrett Ruud LB (4.75)
    • Kiko Alonso LB (4.75)
    • D'Qwell Jackson LB (4.73)
    • Brian Cushing LB (4.73)
    • Jon Beason LB (4.72)

  24. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    We ask our linebackers to play ZONE coverage not man.

  25. LargoSamIM Says:

    @LargoBuc :

    again, I agree 500% ! MLB is a VERY important position in the Buc’s defensive scheme…. AGAIN… and I know I am beating this drum very hard – but I think drafting Kendricks would be one of the smartest moves to come out of One Buc for a long time ! I didn’t push hard enough (or know any of the right people) back in 2012 when we drafted Barron over Kuechly…. so I am now. Even if we have to get Kendricks in the 2nd round, given the importance of the position and what this kid will bring is Definitely worth it…. having and Lavonte and Kendricks as LBs (and either Lansanah or moving Foster) would solidify our LB corps for at least 5 years.

  26. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    Perryman just needs to get his playing weight around 230

  27. PanthersSuck Says:

    Keep foster until someone can outplay him

  28. LargoBuc Says:

    I dont disagree Largo

    Remember Ruud? He played in a Tampa 2 based scheme well a didnt deserve all the spit we gave him. But Ruud didnt start right away. He sat his first two years while learning all that goes into being a Tampa 2 Mike. Had he started his rookie year he probably would’ve been overwhelmed and unfairly labeled a bust way too early.
    So it would make since to try to keep Foster who knows the defense and brings that veteran pressence to our locker room while at the same time we draft a Mike to learn the NFL while sitting for a year or two. That would also provide some depth at the position and we wont have to live and die with a rookie.
    Im all for drafting our Mike of the future but it should be done in a smart calculated manner.

  29. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    The middle linebackers are still the dogs on the field and the guys that are still responsible for hitting and making big plays

    -Ramon Humber (Free Agency)
    -Denzel Perryman (Draft)

  30. LargoSamIM Says:

    @LargoBuc :

    I agree. As long as we draft Kendricks ! You seem to know and appreciate the importance of the MLB in the Bucs defense – what is your opinion of Kendricks ?

  31. Pickgrin Says:

    Sucks that MLB options via both FA and draft are fairly limited. We MUST HAVE a good MLB for this defense to truly succeed. And Foster is obviously not that guy. Between Lovie and Hardy – I’m sure they will figure out what the best option is for this year. If its not Kendricks or Perryman – they may be forced to deal with a stop gap measure for another year until better talent becomes available in the future. If Dom wasn’t such an idiot – we would be set at MLB for the next 10 years – but Nooooooooooooooooooo. Dummynick drafts a safety with 3rd round talent with the #7 overall pick. Thanks Dom!!

  32. Jacko101 Says:

    I like Kendricks to, he’s better than his brother in my opinion

  33. P'cola Buc Says:

    Saw some film on Kendrick ….he has my vote too. Might have to trade back into round one though.

  34. GoshWally Says:

    Bucs 2015 FA/Draft
    FA Jermey Parnell T Age 28 or Bryan Bulaga T Age 25
    FA James Carpenter G Age 25
    FA Clint Boling G Age 25
    FA Devin McCourty S Age 27 or Rahim Moore S Age 25 or Da’Norris Searcy S Age 26
    FA Charles Tillman CB Age 34

    1st pick Jameis Winston QB (FSU)
    2nd pick Eric Kendricks ILB (UCLA)
    3rd pick Preston Smith DE (Mississippi State)
    4th pick Ifo Ekpre-Olomu CB (Oregon)
    5th pick Chris Conley WR (Georgia)
    5th pick Ryan Russell DE (Purdue)
    6th pick Trenton Brown OT (Florida)
    7th pick Trevor Pardula P (Kansas)

  35. Brandon Says:

    Best MLB in the draft by far is Eric Kendricks. He has the speed and coverage ability needed for this defense and is a magnet for the ball…. he’s undersized, so there’s a solid chance he’s still on the board when we draft in round 2.

  36. LargoSamIM Says:

    @GoshWally :

    Gosh, Wally ! Your draft looks GOOD to me ! (I kind of lean toward Mariota (to me: more upside, less problems), but as long as its one of the two I’m okay. I am just REALLY high on this Kendrick kid !

  37. Brandon Says:

    February 28th, 2015 at 4:22 pm
    Not worried about Denzel Perryman playing in a Cover 2, because we ask our linebackers to play ZONE coverage no man.

    Long as he can ball–its all good


    • Vontaze Burfict LB (5.09)
    • Rey Maualuga LB (4.86)
    • Stephen Tulloch LB (4.84)
    • Lofa Tatupu LB (4.83)
    • Chris Borland LB (4.83)
    • James Laurinaitis LB (4.81)
    • Akeem Ayers LB (4.81)
    • Brandon Marshall LB (4.81)
    • Sean Lee LB (4.80)

    • Curtis Lofton LB (4.79)
    • Denzel Perryman LB (4.78) <–Draft'em
    • Navorro Bowman LB (4.77)
    • Chad Greenway LB (4.76)
    • Barrett Ruud LB (4.75)
    • Kiko Alonso LB (4.75)
    • D'Qwell Jackson LB (4.73)
    • Brian Cushing LB (4.73)
    • Jon Beason LB (4.72)

    Few of the guys you listed ACTUALLY played in this style of D in the NFL… and the ones that did and did it well, Greenway, Beason, and Tatupu, played far faster than they timed. LVD only timed around 4.65 but his play speed is far better. It also isn't true that the Mike will never play man… they should be able to do EVERYTHING in this D… except routinely taking on and shedding blocks.

    Kendricks is the guy… Perryman is okay. He's not great against the pass…he's okay, Kendricks is instinctive, athletic, and always around the ball. He really SHOULD be there at #34.

  38. Brandon Says:

    Gosh Wally,

    Draft looks pretty good… except when we take the injured Oregon CB… when we should be looking at a guy like WR Tyler Lockett of K State, who is small, but can fly, was very productive (106 catches), and is an excellent return man… if he’s not there, WR Jamison Crowder of Duke is an excellent consolation prize… both are built for the slot and are return dynamos.

    Not real big on Conley… I know he has the numbers but that is all he really ever showed….

  39. LargoSamIM Says:


    I agree with everything you just said …. especially about Kendricks ! I don’ think it would be a bad thing to trade back into the first round (if we have to) to get him… There is some advantage to drafting a ‘keeper” in round one… If I’m not mistaken, you get an extra year (5th) on the rookie contract (?)

  40. BoJim Says:


    Jeez dude. Enough with the Kuechly! We know you wanted him. You’ve mentioned him 3 times in this post! 😉

    We need an edge rusher.

  41. LUVMYBUCS Says:


    Stephen Tulloch LB (4.84)
• Lofa Tatupu LB (4.83) • James Laurinaitis LB (4.81)
• Akeem Ayers LB (4.81)
• Brandon Marshall LB (4.81)
• Sean Lee LB (4.80) Chad Greenway LB (4.76)
• Barrett Ruud LB (4.75) D’Qwell Jackson LB (4.73) • Jon Beason LB (4.72) Kiko Alonso LB (4.75)

    Your right brotha, MOST of the linebackers (Listed) have played in our style of defense. As you know-its all about instincts, anticipation and red your keys. Denzel typical trust what he see’s, shoots his gap and makes plays in the backfield. He’s a film rat, and very vocal leader. Tough as nails snot knocker-We need an attitude adjustment on this defense and Perryman brings that.

  42. LUVMYBUCS Says:

    *instincts, anticipation and reading your keys.

  43. tha truth is... Says:

    If Patrick Willis is released, sign him IMMEDIATELY. He could be our Hardy Nickerson and help restore the culture we’ve once had before. It’s highly unlikely but anythings possible. Draft wise, I’d go with Anthony or Kendricks

  44. buc'd up Says:

    Stephone anthony looks like an absolute beast, take him 2nd round and sure up the defense

  45. danati74 Says:

    I agree, we can go MLB in 2nd round. Why not get our QB’s of offense and defense this draft one and two. If we plan on trading MG8, we could get a 3rd rounder for him. Use that one one OL as well as our other 3rd on a DE.Come back in the 4th and get OL again, than in later rounds go WR, CB and Safety. Somewhere in-between we have an extra pick we could use on a RB or DT.

  46. LargoBuc Says:

    I havent read much about Kendricks or any of the other Mikes in this draft.
    However without a pass rush, any Mike we draft will be exploited by the elite offenses we face. It wont be pretty.

  47. Owlykat Says:

    Kendricks could do the job but we need to take an OL player with the second pick, to shore up the worst OL in the league. There is a better choice than Kendricks who could be had in a trade with Houston with a lesser draft choice. That player is Max Bullough of Michigan State–who is an Urlacher clone at 6’3″ and played at 260 pounds when he shut down the top running back in the US when they embarrassed Ohio State. Houston took him to stop the run but found he has good speed and is good in pass coverage too. Kendricks is undersized too. It is a no brainer to me!!!

  48. MadMax Says:

    Stephone Anthony is being projected as a 3rd or 4th. If we draft Winston, Id hope we go LB or O line with our 2nd…especially if Cam Erving is there. And in that scenario, Id love to get Anthony with our 3rd. Or Gurley with our 2nd if he’s there. Its according to what we do in FA (hoping we really shore up the O line)…then Gurley could make some sense.

  49. LargoSamIM Says:

    @Owlykat :

    I like Bullough too. If we wait until later in the draft…. he’s a god-sized, strong kid and tackles well. Just not as instinctive or as good in pass coverage as I would like. I’ve always liked Foster – just not in the middle. In the traditional Tampa-2, the MLB has deep responsibility down the middle– or YOU WILL get burned ! (Witness Foster last year) It seems that it just takes a couple of this kind of missed coverage to swing momentum in a game.

  50. MadMax Says:

    Max Bullough isnt even in this draft!!!!!!

  51. LargoSamIM Says:

    Last year… UFA with Houston

  52. bucs4lyfe Says:

    Game tape is the tell all not the freaking combine. Lavonte David was not a first round pick either and still not getting the respect he deserves…. Can’t do much worse than the middle backers we has last year

  53. JFF Says:

    Perryman & McKinney are poor scheme fits because they can’t cover.

    Only draft options are Kendricks & Thompson.

  54. BucfaninMO Says:

    I believe Bullough is on the Texans practice squad.

  55. Bucs fan in NC Says:

    Getting a LB in the 2nd would be nice, but if you’re using the #1 overall pick on a QB then your 2nd pick needs to someone who can keep your shiny new QB on his feet and not his ass!

  56. Mike10 Says:

    Releasing Foster = bonehead move

  57. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    There is another option. Move David to the middle and acquire a veteran OLB for a year. If david shines there, keep him there next year and beyond. If not, move him back next year and draft a MLB next year.

    David might actually get plenty of sacks as a result, finally putting him in the Pro Bowl.

  58. BuccaneerBonzai Says:

    When David was drafted, there was brief talk of playing him at MLB.

  59. lurker Says:

    well this sucks for our drafting…

    “Greg Auman @gregauman · Feb 27

    From last four drafts, Bucs have only five defensive players still under contract: David, Banks, Gholston, Spence, Tandy. Nine on offense.”