This is part six of an eight part series in our training camp preview. Today we look at the linebackers.
On paper, this linebacking unit should be the strength of the Buccaneer defense. Last season this unit was hit hard by injuries as Kwon Alexander missed half the season with a torn ACL, and Lavonte David also missed two games with a MCL injury.
Jack Cichy also spent time on the IR as he tore his ACL and will begin training camp on the PUP list.
As the free agency period opened, the Bucs were shocked when the heart and soul of the defense Kwon Alexander signed a four year $54 million dollar contract with the San Francisco 49ers.
The Bucs picked up Deone Bucannon signing him to a one year contract. Bucannon and Bruce Arians had previously worked together in Arizona. The Bucs also signed Shaq Barrett who backed up Von Miller in Denver the last couple of seasons.
In the 2019 draft the Bucs took the best linebacker in the draft Devin White of LSU who will slide right into a starting position in place of Kwon Alexander.
Even though it appears the Bucs re-made this linebacking unit, White, Barrett, and Bucannon are the only key new players as part of this unit.
Carl Nassib and Noah Spence who were defensive ends under the system of Mike Smith will be used more at linebacker under Todd Bowles as he will run a 3-4 base defense.
This is a big year for Noah Spence. Spence was a highly touted defensive linemen when he was drafted out of Western Kentucky has not lived up to expectations as he he has spent more time on the injured list than he has on he field.
Spence ended up in Dirk Koetter’s doghouse last season as he could not even get on the field and at times was relegated to special team duties.
White was drafted as much for leadership ability as his play on the field. White is not shy about voicing his opinion and during OTA’s and mini-camp was making sure the defense was lined up correctly and everyone was in the right spot. White is a pre-season candidate for Rookie of the Year.
This could be Lavonte David’s last season in Tampa unless a contract extension is reached. David’s contract is not guaranteed for 2020 and after watching the way the Bucs handled the Kwon Alexander and Gerald McCoy contracts, you have to wonder about the status of Lavonte David after this season.
David was rated the 12the best linebacker in the league according to PFF scoring a grade of 77.3 and was the second best linebacker in the NFC south behind Luke Kuechly in Carolina.
The Bucs will start training camp with Carl Nassib, Shaq Barrett, Devin White, and Lavonte David as the starting linebackers. Davonte Bond, Deone Bucannon, Noah Spence, and Anthony Nelson, along with Jack Cichy, when healthy, should all see plenty of action as Bowles will use multiple formations and move players around to create mismatches.
Providing everyone stays healthy, on paper this a good group of linebackers. I like what Carl Nassib did last season from the defensive end/linebacker position registering 6.5 sacks. he will get more of a chance to up that number with Bowles defense blitzing a lot more.
Lavonte David is a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker when healthy, and there should not be much of drop off in talent between Alexander and Devin White.
These linebackers will should enjoy playing under Bowles as he will turn these linebackers loose every chance he gets. Bowles as defensive coordinator in Arizona blitzed on 38% of the snaps.
That is something that Buccaneer fans will be excited to see as the blitz was almost non -existent the last couple off seasons.