Although he didn’t practice a single snap during Tampa Bay’s rookie mini-camp as he recovers from ACL surgery, former LSU linebacker Kendell Beckwith, one of the team’s third-round picks, got some running in prior to the start of practice.
To say he’s in a hurry to hit the ground running and line up next to former college teammate Kwon Alexander is an understatement.
“I feel ready now, but with an ACL you just have to give it some time,” Beckwith said. “I’m looking to be ready for training camp. I’m five months out (from my surgery). I feel pretty good now. I’m doing everything – running, cutting and jumping. I feel pretty normal, but they’re having me be careful with it.
“I couldn’t have picked a better situation. I’m happy to be here. I’m happy to be back with Kwon. We’re going to do some special things. Now he’s the Mike and I’m the Sam. We just switched roles. I’m ready to learn from him and match his intensity – him and Lavonte David.”
Bucs LB Kendell Beckwith – Photo by: Getty Images
Beckwith was LSU’s middle linebacker the past three years, including the 2014 season where he lined up next to Alexander, who was the Tigers’ strongside (Sam) linebacker that year. With Alexander an emerging star at middle linebacker for the Bucs, the team is counting on Beckwith, who is about 15 pounds heavier than Alexander and David, to use his big frame and physical style to play on the strongside and battle against tight ends.
“I can match up,” Beckwith said. “I can run pretty good. I’m going to shed a couple more pounds. I’m at 245 right now and I want to trim down to 240.”
Because he injured his knee in November against Florida after recording 91 tackles, six tackles for loss, four passes defensed, one sack and a fumble recovery during his senior year, Beckwith was unable to run at the NFL Scouting Combine and his LSU pro day. Despite not having a 40-yard dash time on record, the Bucs saw enough on tape to warrant trading up in the third round to draft him.
“Times are great, but when he was healthy we feel he plays plenty fast on tape,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said. “We’ve been looking at him for a couple of years, especially his 2015 tape and then last year. He’s played with his hand down, he’s physical, and he can get movement. He’s a banger. I don’t want to say his best position is Mike, but that’s what he has been playing. We feel like we can take those guys and make them Sams. We’re always looking for guys that can play multiple positions and he’s one of those guys.”
Beckwith, who will be competing with Devante Bond for the starting Sam linebacker spot that is vacant after Daryl Smith’s retirement, said that he could hang with Alexander in a foot race. But Alexander ran a 4.55 at the NFL Scouting Combine in 2015 and that was one of the fastest times for linebackers that year.
“I definitely think I’m a 4.6 type of guy,” Beckwith said. “I know I can run a 4.6. I’m fast enough to cover running backs and I’m fast enough to cover tight ends. I’m 6-foot-2 and I played last year at 246 or 247. I think I could have run a 4.6 at that way. But me getting down and losing some weight I think I can be that much faster. I’ve got to be able to match Kwon.”
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Yet Tampa Bay doesn’t necessarily need Beckwith to be a 4.55 type of linebacker. The Bucs already have two sideline-to-sideline linebackers in Alexander and David. Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith needs a bigger linebacker that can move to the line of scrimmage when he deploys a 4-3 Under front where the Sam has to square up on a tight end and help set the edge.
“I played a little D-end, so I can get down there and bang,” said Beckwith. “That shouldn’t be too hard. I can definitely set the edge and I’m physical.
“I played in a new defense almost every year at LSU, so I’m pretty versatile. I pick things up pretty quick. I’m a pretty disciplined guy so I can be counted on to do the job. If the edge needs to be set, it’s going to be set. I’m definitely a confident person and player.”
Beckwith is fast enough for the Bucs, and he’s making a speedy recovery, too.
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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