Former Tampa Bay Buccaneer linebacker Barrett Ruud was never an impact defensively against the run. Although he led the team in tackles the past two seasons, Ruud's inability to fill a running lane or disengage a blocker was more than likely the reason the Buccaneer organization felt comfortable not re-signing the seven-year vet.
Where Ruud excelled was covering the deep middle in the Buccaneer's famed Tampa-2 defensive scheme. He was also instinctively sharp at recognizing the play-action pass and putting himself into position to blanket running backs out in the flats.
But Ruud became sharp due to experience and repetition. He studied film and was eventually able to distinguish plays at the blink of an eye.
The one facet he was lacking in his game was violence, tenacity, and toughness, and those are attributes which can't be taught.
While Ruud was the starter, the Buccaneers never finished higher than 17th in rushing defense. Blame it on the talent surrounding Ruud, but the stats gradually got worse during his tenure.
Experience and film study taught him to play the deep middle, but no coach was going to teach Ruud attitude.
And that's where Mason Foster comes in.
The Buccaneer's third-round pick in the 2011 NFL Draft has the demeanor and the look of a middle linebacker with a mean streak, and that's what Buccaneer head coach Raheem Morris wants: intensity, power, and a ferocity to plug a hole while disrupting a running play.
Foster unfairly received scrutiny during the preseason loss to the New England Patriots in a game where no one from the first team defense stood out, but Foster continued to play with resolve.
A loss like that can only benefit Foster and gives him plenty to study to remedy his mistakes.
Hardy Nickerson was already an established linebacker with a fierce mindset when he joined the Buccaneers, and Shelton Quarles earned a spot by clawing and fighting his way to the top. Both learned the scheme and maintained toughness.
Ruud never had the fortitude.