The Bucs have been without defensive captain and linebacker Lavonte David for three weeks now. And it shows. On Sunday against the Panthers, Tampa Bay struggled in run defense for the second straight game. A major reason was the play of linebacker Devin White, who struggled at times against Carolina. White made several excellent plays too, but consistency has become a major issue in the third year of his career.
“Mostly Lavonte,” Arians said on Bucs Total Access when asked who the Bucs have missed the most on defense. “His speed. And his calmness and his leadership. Kevin [Minter] played pretty good. Devin, I think, is trying to do too much in Lavonte’s absence.”
Arians didn’t go into detail, but you don’t have to watch tape for long to see what he means. In this week’s Bucs Briefing, I wrote about a big passing play the Panthers were able to hit because White failed to do his job. Instead, he tried to play hero ball and chase a sack. And in this week’s Pewter Report All-22 Film Room video on YouTube, I detailed another instance of White abandoning his gap in over-pursuit, leading to a big cutback run for Carolina.
Bucs ILB Devin White and Saints RB Alvin Kamara – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Just trying to make plays that aren’t there,” Arians said. “Just rushing the passer sometimes. Doing things that he doesn’t normally do. Overall, he can play better and we’ve seen him play better. And I know he will.”
White leads the defense with 128 tackles this season, while also chipping in 3.5 sacks. He’s also missed 21 tackles and only broken up three passes this season. In year two, some of White’s struggles would have been forgivable. Nearing the end of year three, the inconsistencies are starting to become a concern.
As for David, he’s second on the team with 97 tackles. His return against Philadelphia would be a big one, arguably more impactful than any other returning Buc.
“It’s going to be really close,” Arians said. “If he can go, I’m very confident that he’ll play well.”
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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