Bucs’ Lavonte David, Devin White Make Top-10 List

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The Touchdown Wire’s Mark Schofield recently listed the top-11 linebackers in the NFL and guess what? Bucs linebackers Lavonte David and Devin White both made the list.

It’s not a major surprise if you follow the Bucs on a regular basis. David has played at an elite level since 2012 and White is a young, dynamic player who is getting better every year. One can certainly make the case that they form the league’s best linebacker duo.

Schofield certainly thinks so, as both players are actually ranked in the top-9 of his list.

He starts off with White, writing:

Based off his incredible post-season run alone, Devin White of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers merits inclusion on the list of the game’s top linebackers. In wins over the New Orleans Saints, the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs, White notched 11, 15 and 12 tackles respectively, for a three-game total of 38. Only Ray Lewis in 2012 and Dan Morgan back in 2003 had a better run of games in the post-season.

But White’s impact goes beyond a single three-game stretch. Together with Lavonte David these two make up the NFL’s best linebacker tandem, and White’s ability to get to the football and pressure the passer is a huge complement to David’s abilities. Last season White notched 9.0 sacks and a whopping 16 quarterback hurries. While his coverage skills are not an absolute strength of his, he had two of his best games in coverage in the post-season, allowing an NFL passer rating of just 32.5 against the Saints in the Divisional Round, and an NFL passer rating of just 53.2 when targeted in the Super Bowl.

Schofield pretty much hits the evaluation on the head when it comes to White. The former LSU Tiger really took a step forward last year in terms of his ability as pass rusher. Per Pro Football Focus, White’s 31 pressures were good for second-best among all players at his position. The aforementioned 9.0 sacks were the most among all players at his position and his 14 hurries were the fourth-most in 2020. White’s pass rush production in a true pass set -which combines sacks, hits, and hurries relative to how many times a player rushes the passer- came in at 28.3%, which led the league and was well above the second-best mark of 22.1%.

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He also the Bucs’ leading tackler in 2020. It’s clear that White is on the rise, but as Schofield mentioned, he must improve his pass coverage abilities in 2021. The playoffs showed this is possible, but it needs to be seen over the course of a 17-game season.

David comes in at No. 3 on Schofield’s list:

Similar to the discussion around teammate Devin White, one needs to just turn on the Super Bowl to see what Lavonte David means to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In the runup to Super Bowl LV  many wondered how the Buccaneers would try and slow down the vaunted Kansas City Chiefs offense. Part of their answer came with pressuring Patrick Mahomes. But they also found a way to limit tight end Travis Kelce, and David was a huge part of that.

Kelce still managed to finish the game with ten receptions for 133 yards, but David broke up a few passes intended for the tight end and the Buccaneers managed to keep him out of the end zone.

Prior to the big game, David had put together yet another great season in the heart of Tampa Bay’s defense. His nine pass breakups were a career high, and his 114 tackles were his most since the 2014 campaign. With the Buccaneers running things back for 2021, and his running mate by his side, there is no reason to expect anything other than another great season in 2021.

It’s rather simple when it comes to David: He just needs to keep doing what he’s done his entire career. He’ll be just fine as long as he’s healthy.

The Bucs are very fortunate to have two players like David and White on the defense. Schematically, they fit in perfectly. Todd Bowles loves for his defensive front to allow the linebackers to run free, so you can see why these two are so effective. Especially when you consider the speed they play with.

So now you see why it’s fair to expect big things from the Bucs, David, and White in 2021. The sky is the limit for these two. It’s just a matter of how and when they get there.

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