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Who's The Man In The Middle? A Look At The Bucs' Middle Linebackers.

Rookie Mason Foster sat atop the team's first official depth chart at middle linebacker, but former USF star Tyrone McKenzie will be sure to make a competition out of it.

There aren’t a whole ton of position battles going on in Bucs training camp this season, but one of the most important (and most intriguing) is the battle to replace Barrett Ruud as the Bucs’ middle linebacker.

The Buccaneers decided not to re-sign their leading tackler of the last 4 seasons, so now the weight of opportunity falls on the shoulders of two young players: Tyrone McKenzie and Mason Foster.

McKenzie was drafted out of USF in the third round of the 2009 draft by the New England Patriots. But after tearing his ACL in a rookie minicamp and spending some time on both the injured reserve and the practice squad he was waived by the Patriots. Mark Dominik loves other team’s practice squad rejects and has proven he is quite skilled at finding diamonds in the rough. He grabbed up McKenzie, who is now fighting for the starting spot.

Mason Foster recorded 12.46 tackled per game in his senior season at Washington before being drafted in the third round of the last draft by the Buccaneers. They probably had no intention of re-signing Ruud at the time of the draft and recognized that whichever player they drafted would get the chance to play right away. This has proven to be true, as Foster currently sits atop the depth charts in advance of the Bucs’ first preseason game against Kansas City this Friday.

So who’s the man? If there’s one position to have your eyes on closely during this preseason it will be the man in the middle. I personally am wary of starting a rookie at one of the most important positions on the defense after the players were locked out for most of the offseason.  In fact, one of the reasons he may be closer to being up to speed is because of the unofficial minicamp that McKenzie helped organize.

Let’s just hope that the team makes it a fair competition and doesn’t shoehorn Foster into the position because they are suffering from Shiny New Toy Syndrome.

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.