Tampa Bay Buccaneers Job 1: Bring on Some Real Linebackers

Tom EdringtonSenior Writer IMay 2, 2012

Quincy Black needs to show some huge improvement.
Quincy Black needs to show some huge improvement.Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The 2011 linebacking corps for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasn't bad, it was arguably the worst in the NFL.

Quincy Black, Mason Foster and Geno Hayes were the starters who didn't do much to win any fan admiration—or any games, for that matter.

Hayes is gone, his contract was up, the Bucs let him move to Chicago and into the arms of Lovie Smith, who can perhaps give him some love. Quincy Black? Overrated, overpaid, under-performing.

Mason Foster? You gotta give the rookie a pass on the disaster of 2011. He was thrust into a no-win situation with a front line that couldn't tackle very well and two guys on either side of him who couldn't start for any other team in the NFL.

That brings us to Greg Schiano, the just-completed NFL draft and the 2012 season that is a little more than 120 days away.

Job One at One Buccaneer Place is to find and coach up a linebacking corps that can function as a unit, a linebacking corps that understands gaps, a linebacking corps that is totally prepared, a linebacking corps that is fast, physical and smart.

Enter two immediate upgrades: Lavonte David and Najee Goode. David, the Bucs' second-round pick, will be expected to compete for the starting position that Hayes botched last year.

Goode, taken in the fifth round, is expected to "motivate" Black and Foster.

Here's a quick look at the rest of the unit as it stands today:

In addition to Black, Foster, David and Goode, there's Adam Hayward, Dekota Watson, Mike Balogun, Rennie Curran, Jake Cutrera and undrafted free agent Ryan Baker from LSU.

Don't be surprised if the Bucs add some veteran free agents to that group before the start of training camp at the end of July.

What will happen this season is that the linebackers will have two sets of eyes on them. Bryan Cox has the moniker "defensive front seven" coach, and he'll be putting his two cents into that linebackers meeting room.

Cox won't hesitate to call someone out (hear that, Quincy Black?). Cox, the poster beast for physical linebackers during his playing days, won't tolerate the sort of technique and performance that helped add to the stink of last year's 10-game losing streak to finish the season.

Bob Fraser carries the "linebackers coach" title. He was the defensive coordinator, defensive line coach and linebackers coach over the span of the past six years at Rutgers. He knows what it's supposed to look like.

The one area where performance has to change and change in a big way if this team is to have any success whatsoever is in the linebacking corps.

It needs to look a lot different from what it looked like last year.

Anything less, and you're staring at a half-dozen wins.

And who wants that?