Mason Foster Days Until Chicago Bears Season Opener


It’s still way too many days until the Chicago Bears kickoff the 2015 season at home against the Green Bay Packers, but until then Bear Goggles On will be counting down the days by reviewing each player on the roster. Up next at 53 is inside linebacker, Mason Foster.

The Chicago Bears needed linebacker help as they entered the NFL off season following a disastrous 2014 campaign, and landed Mason Foster in March on a one-year deal with the hope he’ll be a cornerstone of their defensive overhaul.

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Foster, 26, was selected in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft out of the University of Washington by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and spent 2011-2014 patrolling the middle for lousy Bucs teams.

According to Pro Football Reference, Foster spent his years in Tampa Bay playing for three defensive coordinators — Keith Millard, Bill Sheridan and Leslie Frazier — all of whom ran a 4-3 defense.

During his tenure in Tampa Bay, Foster had the misfortune of playing on some sub-par, and at times downright terrible, defenses. In his four seasons, the units never ranked better than 21st in points allowed or 17th in yards allowed, with the worst year coming in his rookie season, when they ranked 32nd in points allowed and 30th in yards allowed.

Foster, though, collected some solid seasons in Florida. In his rookie season, he started 15 games in the middle for Tampa Bay, totaling 84 tackles, two sacks and one interception. The next season, he started all 16 games and lodged 105 tackles, two sacks and another interception. In 2013, he started 13 games and collected 92 tackles, two sacks and three interceptions, scoring two touchdowns.

In 2014, he suffered multiple injuries and ended up starting only 10 games. According to Michael Wright at ESPN, Foster separated a shoulder early in the season and then strained his Achilles tendon later in the year. Hindered by the injuries, Foster lodged only 62 tackles with no sacks or interceptions.

Nov 23, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte (22) is tackled by Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster (59) during the game at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

What to expect from Mason Foster in 2015

Foster is a frontrunner to win a starting linebacker position by the time the Bears kickoff the 2015 regular season against Green Bay on September 13, and anything else would be a disappointment.

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There hasn’t been much buzz surrounding Foster since he signed with the Bears, as most of the focus on the Bears defense has been on the additions of a new coaching staff, Pernell McPhee, Antrel Rolle and the transition of Jared Allen and Lamarr Houston to outside linebacker. Foster, though, has an excellent chance at not only starting, but playing above average football with the Bears.

At a little more than six feet tall and 240 pounds, Foster is comparable in size to two other linebackers who worked with new Bears Defensive Coordinator Vic Fangio: Patrick Willis (6’1”, 240 pounds) and Navorro Bowman (6’1”, 230 pounds), and had a similar 40-time to Bowman (4.75 seconds for Foster to 4.7 seconds for Bowman).

While Foster hasn’t displayed the ability or the impact of Bowman and Willis, this is the first year he’ll be working with Fangio, who developed both of those Pro Bowl linebackers, along with other solid linebackers like Chris Borland and Aldon Smith. Working with an instructor of Fangio’s abilities – and proven track record – should push Foster to a new level.

Oct 26, 2014; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers middle linebacker Mason Foster (59) against the Minnesota Vikings during the second half at Raymond James Stadium. Minnesota Vikings defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 19-13. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Foster’s primary competition at inside linebacker are a trio of players who haven’t played inside linebacker at the NFL level: Christian Jones, Jonathan Bostic and Shea McClellin. Of the four candidates, Foster is the only proven commodity as a quality interior linebacker, albeit in a 4-3.

All four players will be learning a new scheme under Fangio. McClellin will be playing his third position in three years after playing defensive end from 2012-2013 and outside linebacker in a 4-3 scheme in 2014.

Bostic and Jones have both flashed athleticism, but Jones played outside linebacker last year with the Bears, and will be seeing the NFL from an interior linebacker position for the first time. Bostic, meanwhile, has struggled against the pass and has played average to poor through two seasons at middle and strong side linebacker, respectively.

That leaves Foster as a logical choice at one of the inside linebacker positions. He’s the most experienced of the four options at inside linebacker and has played in a  handful of schemes already in his career, which should give him a leg up on Bostic, Jones and McClellin. He’s a solid tackler and is a better option in coverage – five career interceptions – than any of his competition at inside linebacker on the Bears.

If Foster starts and plays well, look for the Bears to try to lock him up long-term as one of the pieces to build the new 3-4 defense around in the future.

Next: Jeremy Langford is Heir Apparent to Matt Forte

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