It's ankle tackles like the ones Foster had against the league's best back Adrian Peterson that have made the biggest impact

Mid-Season Review: Linebackers

The Buccaneers glided into the halfway point of 2011 with a lot of problems. The offense wasn’t clicking, the gameplans were failing. But one bright spot that remains constant is the defense. That’s a tough thing to argue of a unit that has allowed — let’s just say a LOT of points.

But much like the defensive line, the linebacking corps isn’t all that bad, it’s just really young.

The Bucs jettisoned so-so middle linebacker Barrett Ruud this offseason paving the way for a ‘yungry’ new guy to step up and take his place. That guy has more than impressed everyone in Tampa and is quickly becoming an anchor in this defense.

I’m of course referring to Mason Foster, the rookie out of Washington the Bucs drafted in the third round of this year’s draft. It was questionable whether or not Foster would be able to fill [*pause for laughter*] the big shoes of Ruud but the rookie has done a great job. But much like the rest of this team, when the Bucs do good, it is usually very quickly followed by something bad.

The Good, The Bad and the Oh So Horribly Ugly

Tampa Bay has not had that bad of a year defensively, they just haven’t had a very good one. They have had a rough go in just about every single one of their games and the linebacking core has been very –shall we say, soft– when it come to stopping the run.

That’s not to say they don’t stop it, they just let the guy run free a little then decide to catch up to him .

But this can either benefit the Bucs or destroy them .Against Adrian Peterson week 2, they allowed 120 yards to the $100 million man.  But when looking at those not so impressive stats, there actually is something quite nice: most of those yards came in the first half.

This may not seem like something to brag about but the Bucs defense essentially played two halves in quite a literal sense. Peterson never got going in the second half which aided the Bucs ability to come back from a 17 point deficit. Peterson also never got to bust out one of his signature high step runs which was something a lot of Bucs fans were expecting to see.

But that’s just the thing. This team is full of surprises, not all of them are good ones. The Bucs had a horrible first six quarters of the season and then looked absolutely spectacular the rest of the Vikings game.  The same can be said for most of the Bucs other games this year.

There has been some issues as well. Quincy Black continues to start (although he’s not doing a bad job) while Dekoda Watson waits in the wings. Geno Hayes starts but he was benched due to performance and replaced by Adam Hayward. There isn’t a solid group of three guys who come in and play the whole game, but this defense as a whole isn’t solid.

This is a growing team and this 2011 season has been a growing pain especially for this young linebacking core. They’ve played tough and hung in there, never giving up and always giving it their all. hopefully that doesn’t end this year and this linebacking core can become something really special for Tampa.

Mid-Season Grade: C+

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