CBS made a big mistake after Tampa Bay’s 27-6 win over Buffalo.
After the game it interviewed Buccaneers rookie quarterback Mike Glennon, who threw two touchdowns, but also completed just 36 percent of his passes for only 90 yards and also threw two interceptions. While the QB has played well during his rookie season, and certainly much better than Buffalo’s E.J. Manuel on Sunday, he was far from being the star of the show at Raymond James Stadium.
The unquestioned star of the show against the Bills is the unquestioned star of the Buccaneers defense over the past two years. The player that should have been interviewed is second-year linebacker Lavonte David, a player very few outside of the Tampa Bay area know about.
Sunday would have been the perfect opportunity for CBS to introduce him to America with a well-deserved post-game interview. After all, David only recorded a team-high nine tackles, a team-high two tackles for loss, a game-high two interceptions and a sack against the Bills in helping the Bucs win the fourth game out of their last five.
What David did on Sunday was to push his season statistics to new heights. The Bucs’ second-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft now has 116 tackles and 17 tackles for loss to lead the team this season, six sacks, which ranks second on the team, a team-leading five interceptions, a forced fumble, a safety and nine pass breakups, which is tied for the team lead.
On Sunday David became just the seventh player in NFL history to record five sacks and five interceptions in the same season, and the first Tampa Bay player to accomplish that feat. That's something that even the legendary Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks didn't achieve.
“That’s a big deal, isn’t it?” David said with a grin. “It’s just an accomplishment; I really don’t pay attention to the statistical things, but it’s just all a matter of just playing hard. I love playing this game. I try my best week in and week out and great things happen. Obviously, that’s a great accomplishment. This game of football has been around a long time. To be the seventh player on that list is amazing.
“Through God all things are possible. If it wasn’t for Him, I wouldn’t be in this position. Also, if it wasn’t for my teammates doing what they’re supposed to do – everybody just flying to the football, getting hands on footballs, creating lanes for sack and things like that – I wouldn’t be in this position. I never single myself out. It’s a team football game. I wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for my team.”
When you combine his 2013 totals from last year’s statistics when he led the Bucs in tackles with 139 and set a franchise record with 20 tackles for loss, his numbers are ridiculous, especially when viewed side by side with those of Brooks, a linebacker that the speedy, undersized David is often compared to. Looking at the numbers side by side, David has outperformed Brooks, who went to 11 Pro Bowls, over the first two years of the future Hall of Famer’s career and has gotten his own career off to a hotter start.Derrick Brooks’ first 28 NFL games194 tackles, 14 pass breakups, 1 sack, 1 INTLavonte David’s first 28 NFL games 255 tackles, 37 tackles for loss, 14 pass breakups, 8 sacks, 6 INTs, 1 FF, 1 safety
“I think he’s the best linebacker in the league,” Bucs cornerback Darrelle Revis, a four-time Pro Bowler, said of David. “There are some guys – no disrespect to Patrick Willis and a number of guys that have been playing for a long time, but he’s on my team – when you pop on the film and watch our defense, Lavonte David is everywhere on the field. From sideline to sideline, in the run defense, he’s there. In the pass defense, he’s there. Is he leading us in interceptions? Yeah. So maybe we might move him to safety or something. He’s everywhere, he’s flying around on the field. He was one of the first guys I saw and got excited about when I first came down here in April.”
Revis deserves an assist for David’s second interception against Buffalo. Tampa Bay’s top cornerback threw a shoulder into Robert Woods and popped the ball loose just before the Bills rookie wide receiver made the catch. David hustled to the play and plucked the ball right out of the air.
“I tried to be as legal as much as I can, and lead with my shoulder,” Revis said. “The ball popped out and Lavonte was there, which says ‘Superman.’ He was there and picked it and continued to finish the play.”
After his huge game, the soft-spoken David was humble when talking about his career-high two-interception game.
“Everybody was doing their correct assignment,” David said. “I was in my correct drops and things like that. Got some hands on some footballs today. It’s all about just swarming to the football. We preach that day in and day out. When you swarm to the football, good things happen.”
As he has done routinely this season, Bucs head coach Greg Schiano praised his star linebacker after the game.
“I think he is playing as well as any linebacker in the league, I really do,” Schiano said. “He does everything: tackle, [defend the] pass, blitz. There’s nothing that guy can’t do. He’s a really fine football player and, as I’ve said before, just even a better person. You can’t ask for a better work ethic, everything about the guy. He’s special.
“He can run so well. He’s not the biggest guy in the world, but he’s big enough but he can run like a safety. Then he plays relentlessly, he plays with tremendous effort, and he just goes to the football relentlessly. When you do that – people call it luck, but I don’t think it’s luck. You make your own luck by playing hard.”
While David clearly deserves to make the Pro Bowl this season, he is currently ninth in fan voting. Bucs management is concerned that despite the gaudy statistics, David will get overlooked this season because he isn’t a household name and he plays for a Tampa Bay team with a losing, 4-9 record.
There is still time left for fans to cast their ballot and help David, and can do so by clicking here.
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made the Pro Bowl for the first time last year and didn’t appear to be too concerned about David’s chances of making it to Hawaii.
“That’s fan voting,” McCoy said. “I don’t even know where I was last year in fan voting, but I went. He’ll go. Honestly, we’re not concerned about that. We just got a big win, we’re going to come in and rehab and get ourselves ready because this team we’re about to play is not the team we just played. They’re one of the elite teams – 13-3 in their coach’s first year. Last year they went to the Super Bowl. This year they’re playing well and fighting for a playoff spot. We’ve got a tough task, they’re coming all the way across the country but they’re a good team.”
David will be going head-to-head against Willis, San Francisco’s six-time Pro Bowler on Sunday as the Bucs host the 49ers to conclude Tampa Bay’s 2013 home schedule. With no disrespect to Willis, McCoy said David is the league’s best linebacker.
“One, because he’s Lavonte,” McCoy said when asked where David ranks among NFL linebackers. “That’s my little brother. I wish I could just sit and watch him play – although I do love playing. I do love doing my part to help him do what he does, however that’s why I’m just going to watch film and ill get to eventually get to see it. The first sack he got I was in the clamp with two people, and I was like ‘Where is this guy coming from?’ The first interception I didn’t even know it was him who had it. The second one he shows up with another one. I was like ‘This guy is everywhere’. He’s fun to watch, I love watching him.
“I called him ‘The Flash’ last year. I know you all remember me calling this guy [The Flash]. I didn’t know who this guy was – just some rookie we drafted – but this guy is lighting fast. And his instincts, last year, you guys asked how he did on opening day and how poised he was with his composure. He was just so calm, cool and collected. He picked up the defense so quick. Well this year, now his talent is just taking over. Now he knows the game. Now he’s just being who he is. His speed is ridiculous. And for him to be low 200s – I don’t know how much he weighs – and hit people the way he does, he’s just all over the field. He’s a ball hawk. He’s got five picks and six sacks. Whether you’re coming free or not on the sack, you’ve got to be fast enough to get there. You have to be in the right spot. That interception he got, when Revis made a big hit, you don’t make those like ‘I just so happened to be the person there.’ No, he’s hawking the ball. If Revis wouldn’t have hit him, Lavonte would have hit him. When Revis hit him? ‘Aw shoot, this is what you get when you run to the ball.’ You create your own luck and that guy is so overly talented, it’s ridiculous.”
Now only if the rest of the league would recognize it.
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