They say the stars tend to shine the brightest on Monday Night Football, and that’s what will help the Pro Bowl candidacy of three Tampa Bay defenders that are playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Weakside linebacker Lavonte David, who led the team in tackles as a rookie with 139, had his national coming out party against the Miami Dolphins on Monday Night Football two weeks ago leading the Buccaneers in tackles with seven in Tampa Bay's 22-19 victory, which was the team’s first of the season. David also had a huge safety, the first of his career, in the first quarter against Miami, helping Tampa Bay race out to a 9-0 lead.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy recorded a key, 10-yard sack of quarterback Ryan Tannehill on second down, setting up a third-and-27 situation on the Dolphins’ final possession of the game with under two minutes remaining in regulation.
Cornerback Darrelle Revis came up with his second interception of the season, which is tied for the team lead, when he stepped in front of wide receiver Mike Wallace and picked off Tannehill’s pass to seal the Bucs’ first win of he year.
The performance of those Buccaneers in front of a national television audience on ESPN were indicative of how each played this year and has bolstered their chances of making the Pro Bowl this season. David, McCoy, Revis and wide receiver Vincent Jackson are all playing at a Pro Bowl level for Tampa Bay this season, and should be given the strongest consideration by the fans, the media and their peers to represent the Buccaneers in Hawaii.
Head coach Greg Schiano recently talked about some of the players he feels are playing at a high level this season.
"I think some guys that we count on to be elite performers are playing at that level," Bucs head coach Greg Schiano said. "Lavonte, Gerald, certainly Darrelle and [safeties] Dashon [Goldson] and Mark [Barron] – those guys are [playing at an elite level].
Offensively, I think Vincent is making some really big-time plays. That’s what we envision when we see those veteran players, those guys that are playing at a Pro Bowl level, and we need them to continue."
Despite having a disappointing 2-8 record this season, the Bucs may be no different than the Kansas City Chiefs from a year ago. Despite finishing with a 2-14 record, Kansas City placed six players in the Pro Bowl. Tampa Bay has enough star power to put multiple players in the Pro Bowl again this season, and placed three Buccaneers – McCoy, Jackson and running back Doug Martin – in the Pro Bowl last year despite a 7-9 record.
With voting ending in just a few weeks, here is the statistical argument for why these Bucs should be near locks to become Pro Bowlers this season.
LB Lavonte David
David has never been to the Pro Bowl, but is the best player on a resurgent Tampa Bay defense. He leads the Buccaneers in several categories, including tackles (86), solo tackles (60) and tackles for loss (14). His five sacks rank second on the team, and he also has an interception and a safety on his stats sheet. David is the only NFL linebacker this year to have over 85 tackles and five sacks, and is more productive in his first year and a half in the league than the legendary Derrick Brooks was over the same time span.
DT Gerald McCoy
McCoy made his first Pro Bowl last year with five sacks. McCoy had a career-high three sacks in Sunday’s 48-21 win over Atlanta to boost his season stats to six quarterback captures, which is a career high. Only three defensive tackles (Tennessee’s Jurrell Casey, Dallas’ Jason Hatcher and Buffalo’s Kyle Williams) have more sacks (seven) than McCoy. In addition to his sacks, McCoy has 30 tackles, is second on the team with nine tackles for loss and has also recovered a fumble and batted down two passes.
CB Darrelle Revis
Revis, a four-time Pro Bowler, has been the shutdown cornerback the Buccaneers envisioned when they traded a first- and a third-round pick for him in April and paid him $16 million per season. He is tied for the team lead with two interceptions and has not allowed a receiver to go over the 100-yard mark this season. Revis, who is getting healthier as the season goes on, has locked down Seattle’s Golden Tate (three receptions for 29 yards), Miami’s Mike Wallace (four catches for 15 yards) and Atlanta’s Roddy White (three receptions for 36 yards). Revis has 30 tackles, 1 tackles for loss, seven pass breakups, and a team-high two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery through the first 10 games of the season.
WR Vincent Jackson
Jackson is Tampa Bay’s leading receiver with 56 catches for 827 yards (14.8 avg.) and a team-high five touchdowns. He has four games of 100 yards or more this season, including a season-high 10 catches for 165 yards and one touchdown in a 41-28 win over Atlanta. Jackson made the Pro Bowl last year as an alternate when he caught a career-high 72 passes for career-high 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. Jackson is on pace for similar numbers again with an anticipated 89 receptions for 1,323 yards with eight touchdowns. If those stats were good enough to get him to Hawaii last year, they should be good enough again this year. Jackson has had a handful of costly drops this season, but the good outweighs the bad, and those drops should have little bearing on the Pro Bowl voting.
Below are a few other Pro Bowl-caliber players on Tampa Bay’s roster that should deserve some consideration based on how they have performed this year.
SS Mark Barron
Barron is having a breakout year and is second on the team with 65 tackles, two tackles for loss, two interceptions, which is tied for the team lead, and a fumble recovery. Barron is outplaying two-time Pro Bowler veteran safety Dashon Goldson this season. Although Barron is attributing much of his success to having Goldson lined up beside him.
MLB Mason Foster
Foster is third on the team with 55 tackles and is tied for the team lead with two interceptions – both of which were returned for touchdowns. Foster also has five pass breakups, four tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble and has made more splash plays this year than ever before.
LT Donald Penn
Penn, a former Pro Bowler in 2010, gave up a few sacks at the beginning of the year, but is playing better as the season continues. His touchdown catch before a nationally televised audience on Monday Night Football only helps his candidacy. Having Jamon Meredith settle in to his right is benefiting Penn.
RT Demar Dotson
Dotson, who is in his second season as a starter, has given up just two sacks this season and has played better at right tackle than any other player in Tampa Bay since Kenyatta Walker during the team’s Super Bowl season in 2002.
C Jeremy Zuttah
Zuttah is steadily improving and has been a huge part of the resurgence of Tampa Bay’s interior running game. He has done a great job assisting rookie quarterback Mike Glennon with protections, and may be the most consistent offensive lineman on the Buccaneers roster this year.
RG Davin Joseph
It’s doubtful Joseph would make the Pro Bowl after a rough start to the 2013 season, but he’s gotten healthier as the season has progressed and is returning to his dominant form. If Joseph continues to play well his earlier play this year may be forgotten and forgiven by his peers.
For Tampa Bay fans wishing to vote for their favorite Buccaneers, the official Pro Bowl ballot can be found by clicking here
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