Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander and the rest of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers travel to Atlanta to kickoff the 2016 regular season. Which one of those players will wind up being the PewterReport.com 2016 Bucs Defensive MVP?
PewterReport.com polled its writers to find out, and the answer may surprise you.
Scott Reynolds’ 2016 Bucs Defensive MVP: MLB Kwon Alexander
Who is Tampa Bay’s Defensive MVP? That’s a tough question because there are quite a few players in the discussion, most notably Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, Pro Bowl linebacker Lavonte David and Alexander, who enters his second year in the NFL after a fabulous rookie campaign that was cut short four games due to a PED suspension.
Bucs MLB Kwon Alexander – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
While I feel like McCoy has the ability to get double digits in sacks this year, I can see the sacks actually getting spread around the defense in Mike Smith’s multiple scheme. While I feel David will thrive in this defense, I believe the middle linebacker position will shine brighter in Smith’s system, which means that Alexander will be the MVP of the defense.
He may not have the “C” on his chest like McCoy and David do, but Alexander is the leader of the defense from an emotional standpoint, as well as a communication standpoint. But more importantly, Alexander’s play will do the talking, and I expect him to be in a neck-and-neck battle with David for the leading tackler spot in Tampa Bay this year.
In his fourth NFL season, David had 105 tackles, 10 pass breakups, three interceptions, two sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery through the first 12 games of the 2015 season. Alexander, as a rookie and a starting middle linebacker for the first time in his football career, had 93 tackles, nine pass breakups, three sacks, two forced fumbles, two interceptions and a fumble recovery over that same span. They say that the biggest year of growth in the NFL is from a player’s rookie season to their second year. This is the year that Alexander bursts on the scene in the NFL.
Mark Cook’s 2016 Bucs Defensive MVP: DT Gerald McCoy
Four-time Tampa Bay Pro Bowler and captain Gerald McCoy is hungry. Not that he hasn’t been his whole career, but the former Sooner is entering his seventh season in the league and has yet to be part of a playoff team. McCoy knows this is the most talented team he has been a part of in the NFL and is trying to will the defense to greatness.
Bucs DT Gerald McCoy – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
But it will all start upfront with him. As good as some of the other defensive players are, opposing offensive coordinators still circle No. 93 when working on a game plan prior to facing the Buccaneers.
The good news is the addition of defensive end Robert Ayers and rookie edge rusher Noah Spence means some of the focus could be shifted away from McCoy, and that should allow him to finally break through the 10-sack plateau. McCoy has come close over the last few years, but the Bucs defense hasn’t had a double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice donned the red and pewter in 2005. This is the year McCoy breaks that streak.
McCoy is a grizzled veteran, and after playing in the NFL for six seasons there is very little he hasn’t seen. With the leadership torch passed to Jameis Winston, McCoy can now strictly focus on being the best defensive player possible. Staying healthy for all 16 games is the key, but if McCoy can manage to do that, he should be the best defensive player on the field – just as his good friend and Bucs legend Warren Sapp was.
Zach Shapiro’s 2016 Bucs Defensive MVP: MLB Kwon Alexander
Alexander will be the Bucs Defensive Most Valuable Player in 2016. Considering the Bucs’ four-game collapse that coincided with Alexander’s four-game suspension last year, one could make the case that the then-rookie linebacker was already Tampa Bay’s MVP. Regardless, I think he takes the next step in 2016 and becomes the centerpiece – literally and figuratively – of the Bucs defense.
In his rookie campaign, Alexander tallied 93 tackles, second-most on the team through 12 weeks, nine pass breakups, three sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He emerged as one of the leaders during the Bucs’ signature victory in 2015 – a 23-20 overtime win in Atlanta in which Alexander, one day after a personal tragedy, recorded 11 tackles, an interception and a never-say-die forced fumble. Heading into Year 2, he should become an even more dominant presence in the front seven.
During training camp, Alexander would arrive at One Buc Place at 6:00 a.m., the same time as Jameis Winston. It’s part of his effort to become the “quarterback of the defense.” Alexander spends extra time in coordinator Mike Smith’s office, getting a better grasp of the defense. He constantly picks the brains of fellow linebackers Daryl Smith, a 12-year veteran, and Lavonte David, a 2015 Pro Bowler, and he plays full-speed no matter the situation.
With a Pro Bowl linebacker by his side in David, a deeper secondary behind him, and a bolstered defensive line in front of him – one that helped produce a league-most 16 sacks in the preseason – Alexander is set up to fly around and make splash plays in Smith’s defense.
Eric Horchy’s 2016 Bucs Defensive MVP: WLB Lavonte David
Linebacker Lavonte David finally got the respect he deserves last year when he went to Hawaii for his first Pro Bowl. The fifth-year pro is frequently cited by other coaches and players around the league as one of the top outside linebackers in the game. Yet the accolades haven’t quite kept pace with his productivity.
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
In addition to being the team’s leading tackler during each of his four previous NFL seasons, piling up 577 total over that time, he’s always all over the field. David’s three interceptions last year paced all Bucs defenders and he’s recorded nine in his career to go along with 13 total sacks and eight forced fumbles.
This year, Bucs fans get to see what David does in defensive coordinator Mike Smith’s new system. He’s a tackling machine and there’s no reason to believe that will stop as the 26-year-old is in the prime of his career. What will be interesting to watch is David’s presence rushing the passer in 2016. Smith has already revealed that this year’s Bucs defense will blitz with linebackers and defensive backs at a higher rate than that of his predecessor. In Lovie Smith and Leslie Frazier’s defense over the past two seasons, David recorded four total sacks. That total was nine during the linebacker’s first two seasons, including a career-high seven in 2013.
The Bucs expect big things out of this year’s linebacking corps of David at weakside, second-year pro Kwon Alexander in the middle and free-agent pickup Daryl Smith at strongside. While Alexander needs to redeem himself a bit for last year’s season-ending four-game suspension for performance enhancing drug use, and Smith needs to show he’s still got something left in his 34-year-old body, David is the unit’s Mr. Reliable and should find himself back on the All-Pro list for the second time in his career.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys 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: [email protected]
I am not sure what having an MLB as our MVP means for our defense as opposed to one of our linemen – or at the least LvD – or one of our CBs, but it doesn’t sound good…sounds like we probably got run-over (or is it passed-over I guess) a lot…not a good outcome.
Got to agree with Eric. LVD will be the man.
As with the Offense, it sure is refreshing to have more than one obvious candidate. I suspect there will be a few more major contributors like Grimes, Ayers and if he can stay on the field Jacquies Smith.
I’m thinking a secondary guy gets the MVP. With the added pressure from the D-line, I could see a guy like Grimes, Conte, or Hargraves getting a high number of interceptions. But if a player does finally get 10 sacks, it would be hard not to give him the MVP. It hasn’t happened in forever.
I have my doubts about Kwon Alexander being legit based on his 4 game suspension last year for PED’s. Sure he claims it was an ingredient from a sports drink that he’s been drinking for years, but the NFL lists the ingredient as a masking agent. Is it as innocent as he claims or was he truely masking PED’s? If it was just 5 a mistake, then I’m on board with all of the hype. But if he was on PED’s, then his performance was tainted and he might not be this budding star everyone is hoping for. We also have to worry about him slipping up and failing another urine test. He’s now subject to being tested at any time and I believe that may include alcohol like the guys that test positive for illegal drugs.
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