With training camp less than a week away, I am looking at every position group for the Buccaneers. Previously we looked at the defensive backs.
This piece will focus on the linebackers as we continue our 2022 training camp preview.
Just as Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are one of the best wide receiver duo’s in the league, the linebacker duo of Lavonte David and Devin White is the best in the NFL.
The Buccaneers don’t have just one but two of the best linebackers in the NFL: Devin White and Lavonte David. White is the new kid on the block entering his fourth season, and it is time for him to take that next step.
David is the veteran of the bunch and has performed at a very high level in Tampa throughout his career.
David is also among the most disrespected and dissed linebackers in the NFL. Whenever anyone outside of Tampa talks about the best linebackers of the last decade, David’s name rarely comes up. That tells me they haven’t been paying attention this last decade.
David has 1,222 tackles, 26 sacks, 26 forced fumbles, 54 pass deflections, 12 interceptions, and 17 fumble recoveries over the last ten years. Please show me a linebacker that has better numbers. I’ll wait.
He doesn’t have the accolades like Pro Bowls or All-Pro recognition to show for his efforts, but David has been one of the best linebackers in the league for the last decade.
On September 11th in Dallas, David will take his spot at inside linebacker to begin his 11th season in the NFL and continue to add to his legacy.
He is one of the current Buccaneers who has already earned their spot in the team’s ring of honor. So could a bust in Canton be in his future?
There are many Sunday afternoons where Lavonte David is still the best linebacker on the field.
There are no holes in his game. He is one of the best in pass coverage and still hits with authority when bringing ball carriers to the ground.
David missed five games with a foot injury last season, and a healthy David for 17 games could help propel the defense to the top of the NFL defensive rankings.
Devin White is one of the top five linebackers in the NFL. White had 128 tackles with 3.5 sacks last season and was the 24th-ranked linebacker when it came to stopping the run.
With his 4.4 speed, White can close on ball carriers very quickly. The area of opportunity for Devin White is in pass coverage. He has got to be better, and I look for him to improve that part of his game this season.
Joe Tryon-Shoyinka is number one on the depth chart to replace Jason Pierre- Paul at right outside linebacker. The Bucs are counting on a significant improvement from Tryon-Shoyinka this season.
Tryon-Shoyinka was primarily used on third downs last season as he struggled with his tackling. According to PFF, he whiffed on 27.3 percent of his tackles. His run defense overall is a huge opportunity to improve.
Tryon-Shoyinka’s strength is rushing the passer. if he can make the improvements in his game to stay on the field, the Bucs’ pass defense will be much improved
Shaquill Barrett will handle the left outside linebacker duties. He led the Bucs in sacks with ten, his second season with double-digit sacks in a Bucs uniform. He also forced three fumbles and recovered two.
Barrett was one of the best outside linebackers at bringing pressure last season, despite the knee injury causing him to miss the final two games of 2021.
Barrett was the Buc’s best pass-rusher and one of the best outside linebackers at rushing the passer. He signed a new contract last off-season. So he will be in Tampa the next few seasons.
KJ Britt and Grant Stuard should be ready to take on additional defensive roles this season. Both were key contributors on special teams last season, but they bring a ton of energy to the team.
Anthony Nelson had his best season as a Buccaneer, stepping up and playing a more significant role in the defense when Barrett was out with his injury and filling in for Jason Pierre-Paul. Nelson finished the season with five sacks.
Cam Gill and Kevin Minter will also be trying for more playing time in 2022. But with such a talented group, it will be hard for these two to get on the field outside of special teams.