SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 09: Mason Foster #59 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers celebrates after he recovered a fumble during their game against the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on October 9, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Mason Foster has performed pretty well in his career thus far. There is something about the way he plays the game that makes the defense more physical. He always seems to be around the ball and that is something this team has been missing from a middle linebacker since Brooks. Despite Foster‘s having relatively low tackling numbers for a middle linebacker, he is still always in the play. Last year, Ruud was great on passing downs, but whenever the ball was run you could see him on the ground or being pushed around. Foster will not take any of that nonsense and is always trying to make contact, even if he is not getting the tackles yet. He is also tied for the team lead with 2 sacks, which showcases his aggressiveness. Watching him in preseason, it was obvious he would bring an amount of physical play that this team hasn’t seen for some time physical and this seems to have jump started the defensive front. It appears that with Foster in, Raheem feels much more comfortable calling blitzes, forcing Talib and Ronde into man coverage. Raheem may be doing this so that Foster is not forced into coverage, something he needs to improve on a bit more; or because Raheem thinks Foster is an excellent blitzer; or because Raheem believes in his corners to hold on long enough for the defensive front to force a sack or bad throw. This brings me to Aqib Talib
Aqib Talib has played pretty poorly this season, which is a bit surprising because people were saying how bad this defense would be in pass coverage with him gone due to his latest off field incident. His presence hasn’t helped as much as expected. Strange enough, Talib has been placed on the opposing team’s number two receiver, instead of the number one, for a lot of the time. However, against Calvin Johnson, he was almost always on him, which he got destroyed. Against Atlanta he was on Julio Jones, who had 6 catches for 115 yards. Talib seems to be struggling, but hopefully Coach Morris can get him back to the pro bowl caliber player of last year. It’s not just Talib, however, Biggers has been playing poorly as well. Obviously Biggers is not as good as Talib,but he has been covering the number one receivers when the Bucs go with multiple corners. He has struggled, but at least has made more plays than Talib. Against Atlanta, twice in the red zone Biggers was able to defend passes his way in order to force a field goal, which would prove to be the difference maker in the game. Talib had the one pick six against Detroit, but since that game he has regularly dropped picks he used to catch and been beaten on routes. In the almost pick he had last game against San Francisco, the ball was underthrown on a route he was about to be beat on, which is why he was in perfect position to intercept it. Unfortunately, Talib is not alone. The entire Buccaneers pass defense has been struggling. Last year the Bucs were ranked 10th in pass defense and this year are 20th so far. The poor pass defense is not a result of the Bucs playing the run, which forces more passes and therefore more yardage. If the poor pass defense was a result of the Bucs playing the run, then the Bucs wouldn’t be ranked near the bottom of the league being 22nd in run yards allowed a game. Maybe Raheem’s defensive strategy was to just blitz and force the opposing QB into a mistake, but with how coverage has been so far, few mistakes have been made. The Bucs are giving opposing QB’s an average passer rating of 99, 6th worst in the league.
Gerald McCoy has been playing great actually. Last season it took him 11 weeks to get his first sack; this year he already has notched one. McCoy has continually been wreaking havoc in opponents’ backfields; even though he hasn’t gotten the kind of numbers Suh had last year, those numbers will come with the kind of disruption he is having. It is very unfortunate that he got hurt last Sunday because it was obvious how much this defensive line needs him. As soon as McCoy left the game, the 49ers run game started killing the team and taking the game further out of hand. It hurt watching every minute of that game, but I was encouraged that the defense never seemed to give up, like the offense appeared to have done. Yes the 49ers were able to do whatever they wanted on offense, but the defense held them to under 210 yards passing and McCoy’s departure was the reason for the rushing onslaught. The Bucs will miss McCoy this week against the Saints, but hopefully he will be ready for the London game, especially with Matt Forte in the backfield.