Most linebackers love nothing more than playing fast, aggressive football and attacking the opposing backfield whenever possible. It's why they gravitated to the position in the first place.
So it's no surprise that Tampa Bay Buccaneers second-year linebacker Mason Foster feels like his team's hard-hitting new defensive system, installed by Head Coach Greg Schiano and Defensive Coordinator Bill Sheridan this offseason, suits him perfectly.
"It's a great scheme," Foster said. "It's attacking, letting linebackers play downhill and run through gaps and make plays in the backfield. I feel like it fits me perfectly and my style of play, being physical and being able to run and hit. It makes things easier for me and I'm getting real comfortable and I'm excited to keep progressing in this defense."
Foster also happens to be right, at least as evidenced by his statistics through the first six games of his second NFL campaign. He's already racked up nine tackles for a loss individually, and the Bucs as a team lead the NFL in that category. His 48 stops overall are on pace to give him 128, which would surpass his total from his rookie campaign, and he also has an interception to his credit in 2012.
Last year, Foster started out like gangbusters but made fewer impact plays as the season developed. This time around, he thinks the results are only going to get better from week to week.
"I think really everybody is getting used to playing together," Foster explained. "We've got great chemistry on our defense and our front seven. It's about being able to know when you've got a chance to take a shot and make a play. Everybody knows what they're doing. We've got a great D-line and everybody's making plays up there, taking up linemen, shooting gaps, and it allows guys like me, Lavonte [David], and Quincy [Black] just to play fast and do what we do."
Speaking of rookie linebacker Lavonte David, there appears to be a budding relationship between these two young Bucs. Foster says he and David play a similar style of football, and that symmetry – combined with the aforementioned scheme that gives the duo the freedom to make plays – has helped them to grow and develop together.
"I think both of us have very good instincts," Foster said. "You can tell from watching Lavonte in college, and watching him practice, that he just has a great feel for the game and he's a true linebacker. I feel the same way about myself, and I feel like when you have someone right next to you that plays the same way, and sees the same things you're seeing, it allows you both to play faster and play off of each other.
"It's great, and it's a lot of fun when you have a guy like that next to you, just racing to the running back and trying to have a party on the running back every game. It's great to have somebody like that next to you."
Despite Foster and the Bucs' success in making plays on the other side of the line of the scrimmage, the fact remains that the defensive unit has experienced some growing pains as the team has dropped a handful of close contests so far in 2012.
However, Foster says he feels very confident that the best is still yet to come from both the Bucs defense as a group, and himself as an individual.
"I feel like we're getting better each and every day," Foster said. "We're progressing as a unit. We've just got to keep learning. We've got great coaches, Coach Schiano, [Linebackers] Coach [Bob] Fraser, Coach Sheridan, everybody. We're starting to learn more and more and we know what they're looking for against certain teams. So I think we're going to just keep getting better.
"We just need to cut down on the little mental mistakes. I feel like we're playing with great effort, so a lot of times those mistakes get covered up. But at the same time, the NFL is a game of inches. It comes down to one play, one inch, every single game, so you've got to tighten that up even more and be more precise. I think we're getting there."