There were several things that I learned about this roster last season that will help me when it comes to finding players for this upcoming 2013 NFL Draft. Regardless of the scheme change, this defense is in great hands with Sean Lee and Bruce Carter as the major pieces of it. The scheme calls for an athletic, aware, solid tacking middle linebacker which fits Lee to a tee.
As outstanding as Lee is finding the football, working his way through trash and making tackles, he is even better as a defender in pass coverage. He can play man coverage but has a really nice feel for zone drops and where he needs to fit. His ability to react was put on display several times this season against Tampa on a zone drop, then driving on the ball for an interception. Then against Carolina where the receiver ran a route behind him on third down and he was able to knock the ball loose. Lee will benefit having two defensive linemen in front of him instead of just one. By playing covered, he really has a chance to chase the ball because he will not have to always take on blocks. Lee's ability to read scheme quickly will really help him in this defense both run and pass.
There were so many questions before training camp opened last season about Bruce Carter and his ability to take the job full time. Carter clearly out played Dan Connor who I thought would give him a run for the spot but that never worked out. Carter was outstanding until he suffered the elbow injury against the Redskins on Thanksgiving Day. With Lee out of the lineup, he did more than pick up the slack from his loss. In the new scheme he will line up as the Will and his job will be to help DeMarcus Ware on that backside in not only playing against the run but some zone drops in coverage. Carter should be a star in this defense because of his run-hit factor.
Former Buccaneers Derrick Brooks played at a very high level because he was allowed to chase the ball. Where Carter really improved his game this season and this was from talking to Sean Lee as well, is how fast he was able to read scheme. There were some times in 2011 where Carter was a tick slow but that is no longer the case. Carter is in that mode now of see ball, get ball. I mentioned he will be playing on the same side with Ware and I really do believe this helps Ware because he can get up the field as quickly as possible to disrupt the play, with Carter backing him up, he has confidence that he can take a chance on a play knowing that Carter has his back.
As the season ending Dan Connor and Ernie Sims were the starting inside linebackers. There is a side of me that believes that Connor will most likely be gone mainly for cap reason and Sims is an unrestricted free agent so for him to have to come back in the mix, the club is most likely going to have to find some money for him but he too can go to another team after showing some value.
Caleb McSurdy doesn't really fit the profile of the Mike linebacker because I didn't see the speed or quickness but there was no question of his toughness studying his college tape and maybe he could develop into a core special teamer much like Danny McCray has. I have to give the kid credit, when I walk by that weight room he is in there rain or shine. Orie Lemon showed enough nose for the ball to be given an opportunity but look for the front office to address the spot behind Lee through the draft because they sit now, there is a bit of a mismatched group.