The PewterReport.com Roundtable features the opinions of the PR staff as it tackles a topic each week that involves the Bucs.

This week’s topic: Who Is Playing The Best On The Bucs’ Defense

Scott Reynolds: ILB Devin White

Bucs middle linebacker Devin White gets an absolute “A” for effort in the first two games of the 2020 season, and he’s been the Bucs’ best defender. White has been like the Tasmanian Devil – an absolute whirling dervish on the football field, roaming sideline-to-sideline at close to 100 miles per hour it seems while racking up 26 tackles – 17 solos – in two weeks, which leads the NFL. Speaking of lead, White also earned a “C” on his chest this year as he was voted as a team captain in just his second season in the league.

Bucs LB Devin White
Bucs LB Devin White – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Former Bucs director of player personnel Jerry Angelo told me that when it comes to linebacker play, you can’t always scout from the stats sheet, and he’s right. Just because a player has a high amount of tackles doesn’t mean he is always effective, or even a great player (former Bucs linebacker Barrett Ruud comes to mind). But it does mean that defender is around the ball and are actually making tackles rather than missing them. After recording 11 stops at New Orleans, White had a career-high 15 tackles in Tampa Bay’s 31-17 win against Carolina, including many downfield in coverage against receivers.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians said that White should have had 20 tackles, and he did miss a few opportunities by overrunning plays. Keep in mind that White just played in his 15th NFL game after missing three and half games last year due to a knee injury. He’s still learning and improving. We’ll see plenty more tackles from White, and if he stays healthy he’ll smash last year’s mark of 91 stops, as he’s on pace to record 208 tackles in 2020. Hardy Nickerson set the single-season Bucs record with 214 tackles in 1993 – and he was a five-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team in the 1990s. That’s some fine company for White to be in, and he could get his first Pro Bowl nod this season if he keeps up his quality play.

Mark Cook: DE William Gholston

Hey, sometimes it takes a player eight seasons to figure it out, right? I kid, somewhat. But defensive end Will Gholston has been with the Buccaneers through coaching regimes led by Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter and now Bruce Arians. And while 2019 was probably his best season of his career, Gholston now in his eighth year, is really making his impact felt – at least through these first two games.

DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Gholston was instrumental Week 1 in keeping Saints running back Alvin Kamara in check, notching seven combined tackles, including two for loss. That was actually third on the team and most by any defensive lineman. Last Sunday against the Panthers, Gholston had a couple more stops, and also something he isn’t really known for – a sack.

In fact, Gholston has only had one sack in each of his previous three seasons and a total of just 13 now in his career. If Gholston could match or exceed his career high of three sacks this year, it would only be a bonus for the Buccaneers, who expect pressure on the quarterback to come from some of the bigger name defenders. Gholston isn’t flashy but every defense needs that guy to do the dirty work and he is thriving in that role in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme, which fits him like a glove.

Jon Ledyard: ILB Lavonte David

I thought about going a different direction with this selection, just to offer more variety amongst our staff picks. Safety Antoine Winfield, Jr., nose tackle Vita Vea and cornerback Carlton Davis III have all had deserving stretches of play through two weeks, but if we’re being realistic, nobody is close to David’s level of dominance snap-to-snap.

Bucs LB Lavonte David and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey
Bucs LB Lavonte David and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

At almost 31 years old, David doesn’t look like he’s lost a step at all, chasing backs across the field consistently in run defense while piling up three tackles-for-loss in Week 1 (stats only recorded two for some reason) and making some impressive stops around the line of scrimmage against Carolina. He and Vea are the biggest reasons why the Bucs’ run defense has remained so strong through two weeks.

But what really sets David apart is his ability in coverage. Being an elite cover guy as a linebacker in the NFL is one of the toughest jobs in the entire league, and very few players at David’s position excel at it. He’s consistently able to match up with backs and tight ends in man coverage, while showing a ton of range and diagnostic ability in zone. David is the perfect modern day linebacker and his ninth season is already shaping up to be one of his best.

Taylor Jenkins: ILB Lavonte David

In what should be no surprise to anyone who has paid attention to his career thus far, Lavonte David has been the best player on the Bucs’ defense through two games. David’s 82.5 player grade through two weeks, per Pro Football Focus, ranks him as the highest-graded player on Tampa Bay’s defense and his elite coverage grade of 90.1 puts him in the league’s Top 5 players in coverage.

Bucs ILB Lavonte David
Bucs ILB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

It isn’t just his ability to diagnose plays and act as a leader on the defensive side of the ball, but David has continued his run as one of the most consistent linebackers in nearly all facets on defense. He’s a sure tackler and is already getting back to his habit creating turnovers with his first forced fumble (which he also recovered) on Sunday against the Panthers. That was the 15th fumble recovery of his career, which is the most in the NFL since 2012, and David’s 22nd forced fumble, which is tied for the fifth most in the league since 2012.

David is one of the league’s leading tacklers to this point in the season with 16 tackles, missing only two. And the former Pro Bowler has allowed just four receptions for 42 yards while adding in a pressure, a quarterback hit – all while helping mentor second-year inside linebacker Devin White.

Matt Matera: CB Carlton Davis III

In his three years in the league we have seen Carlton Davis III take tremendous strides in his progression over the years. He’s gone from being a cornerback that was flagged often for holding and pass interference penalties, to a shutdown corner as the top defensive back on the Bucs roster. Remember when there was a concern about putting too much faith in Tampa Bay’s secondary to continue taking a step forward? Davis has easily calmed those nerves after two great weeks of production.

Bucs CB Carlton Davis III
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Getty Images

Davis started off his season by shutting down All-Pro receiver Michael Thomas in New Orleans, which is no easy task. He limited Thomas to just three receptions for 17 yards, and even the receptions he made were difficult catches with Davis draped all over him. Having Davis shadow the opponent’s top receiver has helped the defense with Todd Bowles being able to expand his play calls knowing he can trust his best corner.

The next step in Davis’ progression came in the Bucs’ victory over the Panthers with him making the biggest play of the game for the defense. He came up with a clutch interception in the fourth quarter that gave the ball back to the offense when momentum was not on their side. Davis had only one career interception prior to that, so seeing him step up and make a huge play like that was very important. He’s comfortable in this defense and he knows what’s expected of him. Davis is quickly becoming a Top 10 corner in this NFL, if he’s not there already.

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: sr@pewterreport.com
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ryan

Why does it feel like Scott works for the Bucs PR team instead of giving objective analysis? By every defensive measure except maybe tackles, Devin White is an average to below average player. His PFF grade is 55. He consistently over runs plays and is a liability in coverage. The excuse is that he only has played in 15 games…just take a look at Lavonte’s rookie year lol. Scott’s only point is that Devin gets an A for effort…yikes. Jon and Taylor were spot on to pick his running mate Lavonte. Even rookie, Antoine Winfield Jr. has had a more… Read more »

SenileSenior

Rank has its privilege on this staff. 👮‍♂️ (I suspect there is an unstated agreement here among them so that all five don’t choose the same player too often.) 🤝

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Go Bucs!!!!

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jongruden

Ryan is an idiot doesn’t even deserve a response lol

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PatrioticChief

The answer is David and it’s not particularly close. Devin actually had a better game against New Orleans than the Panthers I think. He may have been pit in a position to lose but he still got burned in coverage and missed several tackles. Don’t get me wrong. I am hyped to see the player he is going to become this season and I am impressed by him so far. But David is still the best LB, and defensive player, on this roster.

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Donkey_Hunter

LVD by far.

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PewterPose

I know it’s early, but is anyone else concerned that Barrett and JPP are not in this conversation at all?

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eaustinyoung

Barrett hasn’t shown what he was last year (though offenses are now scheming for him), but JPP is on target to get 16-18 sacks easy.

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SenileSenior

He appeared to have a good game in general to me. His sacks will come as the season progresses

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PatrioticChief

This is why you don’t hand out massive contracts to one year wonder pass rushers. But like you said, it’s very early. More than enough time for Shaq to catch steam, and to be honest, I’d much prefer he gets hot later in the season than too early.

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76Buc

“Davis Island” anyone?

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Naplesfan

I don’t get the perceived need by media writers, and some fans, to run a dick-measuring contest. It matters not at all which player is “playing best”, because that is a impossible comparison. What matters completely is who is playing well, and who is not playing up to what they should be. Every position is different – even the positioning of the positions, i.e. left tackle vs. right tackle, and outside linebacker vs. interiod linebackers – let alone the different position types (defensive line vs. linebackers vs. safeties vs. cornerbacks). To say this left tackle is “better” than that interior… Read more »

TropicOfCapricorn

David. Second place, probably CDIII. But David deserves special mention, because he has been and remains one of the most underrated players in the league. I’d argue he is *the* most underrated player in the league, to a criminal degree.

One of my all-time favorite Bucs.

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Horse

Based on his age, I would say Suh.
In reality it’s still a team sport.
This is the best coaching we’ve ever had in my humble opinion.

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fredster

Best veteran player so far Levonte.

(White will pass him at some point and soon IMO. He already is more disruptive imo. Don’t care what stupid PFF says.)

Best rookie Winfield.

Most improved Davis.

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Ron Potter

Great article and great cases laid out for all players named. Even the comments have some good suggestions.

IMO, enough can’t be said about Lavonte David if we continue to have success. All that he’s gone through with us and the class act that he is to boot… the guy deserves as much accolades and praise Buc fans and the org can give him! Here’s to hoping we continue to win games and that LVD is a big part of it!

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Brandonges

The answer to this question is the same as it’s been for the last 8 seasons: Lavonte David. Shoutout to Carlton and Winfield though.

Scott is clearly only looking at the stats. White has missed a fair share of tackles and been below average in coverage. He’s been playing ok.

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surferdudes

Who’s best? Who cares, as long as they’re all playing good. How much better? I don’t think this defense is clicking yet. Two more games with no injuries, I think they’ll really be jelling. Watch out!

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jjtixs

White def needs to Improve on his pass defense! Hes giving up to many pass completions

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SenileSenior

We have a new “swarming defense” now. This talent stacked offense should catch up with the defense soon. Now, if we hope to rival to the likes of Kansas as City in December/January — about that ST unit!

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Go Bucs!!!

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SenileSenior

Kansas City (KC)

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PewterPose

Nice to see folks adding the Bucs D in Fantasy this week. Word’s getting around that we are not to be trifled with.

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jongruden

Mark Cook- Out of all the play makers on this team Charlton Davis, Winfield, White, David, Suh, your #1 guy who stood out is William Gholdston? He had 1 sack and a few tackles hardly worth your editorial sigh, lol

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