FAB 4. David Will Bring The Bucs’ Blitz Back In 2018

Bucs linebacker Lavonte David led the team in tackles with 101, forced fumbles with five, fumble recoveries and also scored a touchdown. By all accounts, David had a very good season and was worthy of a Pro Bowl appearance that never happened. The reason? It was likely due to the fact that despite creating five takeaways, David didn’t register an interception or a sack, which are the “money stats” that get outside linebackers to the Pro Bowl.

David has 10 career interceptions in four of his six years in Tampa with 2014 and ’17 being the only seasons he failed to pick off a pass. When it comes to rushing the passer, David has 18 career sacks, including five in 2016, but last year was the first year he failed to take down a quarterback.

Bucs LB Lavonte David - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Getty Images

David has only missed five games in his NFL career, but three of them came last season after he suffered a sprained ankle in a Week 2 loss at Minnesota. Missing three games cost him opportunities to get a sack or an interception, but David insists there were plenty of chances to make those plays in the 13 games he suited up for.

“It did sting,” David said. “It was frustrating, but that’s all on me. I have to do a better job of perfecting my pass rush and coach when the coaches give me the opportunity I have to take advantage of it. As a linebacker in dime or as a WILL linebacker you don’t get that many opportunities, so I have to take advantage of them when I get the chance to rush wherever I line up whether it’s A gap or D gap. Wherever it’s at I have to beat my guy off the ball and make a play.”

If I would have told David before last season that he would have had zero sacks in 2017 he would have thought I was crazy.

“I would have laughed in your face,” David said. “But it happened and I have to take it on the chin. That was one area where we didn’t get the job done. We have to do a better job of getting after the quarterback when our number is called.”

Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith never made any excuses publicly about the lack of personnel or pass rush he had to deal with last year, but he was hamstrung by a front four that generated only 20 of the team’s league-low 22 sacks last season. The linebacker corps only produced two sacks last year as a result. With young, inexperienced players like Vernon Hargreaves III and Ryan Smith struggling at cornerback, that limited the amount of blitzes Smith would call for fear of isolating Hargreaves or Smith in man coverage too often and surrender a big play or a touchdown.

Bucs LB Lavonte David - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“For the most part us linebackers had to drop in coverage, especially with the injuries and things like that,” David said. “We had to throw some of our guys in on the D-line to help rush, so we couldn’t blitz as much as we wanted because everything had to be simple with guys learning new roles. It was hard, but it was part of the game plan we had to run. It hurt me, but it hurt everybody.”

With outside linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Devante Bond having to see some snaps at defensive end to help with the pass rush while Noah Spence and Robert Ayers, Jr. were injured, David and Alexander spent more time in pass coverage than rushing the passer. That will change this year with the addition of Jason Pierre-Paul and Vinny Curry, as well as Spence’s return. During Thursday’s training camp practice, David lined up at the line of scrimmage next to Curry and blitzed off the edge, and he’ll see plenty of sacks through the A and B gaps, too.

Third down is a blitzing down in the NFL, and the Bucs were the best defense in the NFL stopping conversions in the league in 2016 with a 34.36 percent conversion rate. Last year, Tampa Bay was the worst, allowing opponents to convert 48.15 percent of their third downs. That’s an increase of nearly 14 percent – in the wrong direction.

“The biggest step forward – third down,” David said. “The year before last we were good on third down then last year we were bad. So we’re just trying to get back to that elite level on third down defense. There were a lot of situations on third-and-long where we gave up big plays. It’s as simple as that. That’s the one area we really need to improve on.”

In an effort to stay healthy, get stronger and be a more effective pass rusher, David has worked hard in the weight room this offseason focusing on his shoulders, which have given him problems over the years. He’s noticeably bigger this year.

Bucs LB Lavonte David - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR
Bucs LB Lavonte David – Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

“I was definitely trying to get bigger,” David said. “I’m 234, which is the biggest I’ve ever been.

“I’m ready to bang. One of my days during workouts I focus on my shoulders and try to make the ligaments stronger and things like that. As a linebacker I just try to use my shoulders a lot.”

David plans on burying his shoulder into quarterbacks’ chests this year with far greater regularity than he did a year ago. He posted five sacks in 2016 and a career-high seven in 2013. David knows how to blitz and get to the QB. His sacks were sorely missed last year, but look for David to be unleashed on blitzes with far greater regularity this season.

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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: [email protected]
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e

Nice work, Scott. I agree with both assessments on Winston and Licht. I know that’s not a popular position with the PR folks these day… I’m still very surprised to hear that part of Jameis’ daily routine does not involve any counciling? You have a guy that is possibly the future of the franchise, and there is no investment made in this area for Jameis? This does not count against the salary cap. It seems to me that if the team is only going to focus on the on-field improvement for Jameis, they (Licht? Glazers?) are derelict in their duties… Read more »

WestChap

Scott, your understanding Jameis being vague given he was likely drunk and doesn’t remember what happened in the Uber car is confusing. Do you really think that his and Darby’s statements were uncoordinated? Do you think Darby had forgotten about the second Uber ride? Do you think Jameis stated the driver was “mistaken” without learning from Darby that “yeah Dude, you were totally wasted so we put you in a car… yeah, we put you in the front seat”? We don’t know a lot of what happened that night but we sure know Jameis lied when it became public in… Read more »

cgmaster27

Great Fab5 Scott. I think Fitz is good enough to get us one of those first three games. If the run game and defense improve, heck maybe even two of them. Call me an optimist, but Fitz is who he is as well, limitations and all. However if Fitz plays well enough, it wouldn’t shocvk me to see him play week 4 as well. AS for Jameis, he handled the questions how he could at this point, as you stated a civil suit could be filed. I’m not sure how the limitations work on that as it’s been 2 years.… Read more »

Horse

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Naplesfan

The easy way to avoid Winston’s dilemma of how to answer the inevitable questions is to, you know, not do the deed. Zero understanding is deserved.

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owlykat

CGmaster in Florida the statute of limitations is seven years for civil sexual abuse, since you didn’t know.

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Ken - Kfromfla

The alleged incident happened in Arizona and the statute of limitation for civil liability is 2 years. Also, in the state of Arizona, Sexual Assault Laws; Title 13. Criminal Code § 13-1406, which covers Sexual Assault, is described by the web to include any of the following acts: Sexual intercourse without consent means the penetration of the vulva, penis, or anus using anything. or Oral sexual contact (with the vulva, penis, or anus) without consent – verbal threats, fear, or intimidation may be used to sexually assault someone. There was no sexual assault, an inappropriate touching misdemeanor act at worst… Read more »

nybuccguy

Dont discount the effect having a newborn might have on Winston. Hes never been a father before and the challenges of that are probably distracting him just as much as the suspension.

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kram0789

I don’t like our chances of making the playoffs this year, even if Fitz goes 3-0. There are still three better teams in our division. The impact of a better Bucs team is probably only 2 teams make it to the playoffs from our division this season, as a result of the division beating each other up. The Buc’s need one of those 3 teams to drop off, and my bet is it will be the Saints due to the age of Brees. But not this year. To be a consistent playoff contender we need Winston to step it up… Read more »

Benjamin

This was a very good fab 5. You think just like i do regarding Licht and Koetter’s jobs. I firmly believe regardless of what the teams record is Jason Licht deserves a contract extension. The talent he has brought in not just this off season but his entire time here is the best we have seen since Rich McKays times as GM. Licht doesn’t coach, he doesn’t game plan, or call plays on sunday so it is not on him if somehow this team underachieves like last year that is squarely on Koetter and his staff. I believe that Koetter… Read more »

kram0789

I am not as much on the bandwagon for Licht as many fans are. For one, I don’t believe that he has not made numerous mistakes in the draft and free agency. How many of those free agents from previous years are still on the team? Not Many. Many will point the drafting of a kicker in the second round as proof that he is not a master of the draft. While I did not like taking a kicker with a second round pick I understand why he did it. What is telling is that his reasons for doing it… Read more »

owlykat

Kram0789–no one was a bigger outspoken critic of Licht than I was because Licht started out with us as a rookie GM and he came in with the belief the best way to build an NFL team was to take BPA without reaching for a player to fill needs and that is what he did right up to this year when his neck was on the line for leaving us with so many holes especially on both lines and at RB and Def. backfield. That taught him a big lesson. Perhaps he took notice of the changes the Jags took… Read more »

Horse

QB it’s my concern for the first 3 games; even the fourth game because it’s a Monday night and Winston’s not going to have enough time to get into a decent groove by game 4. if anything happens to Fitzgerald in the first four games we are in serious trouble because Griffin is not the answer. We have to get another quarterback and house now. Good article Scott. Is it me or does Winston look like he’s lost some weight? His arms were small before,but now they even look thinner . Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet.… Read more »

FLyBoy

Great article Scott. Tom Jones pressing the “Cut Jameis” button?!?! Say it aint so! Then again, thats the norm. Pretty sure that man hates living in Tampa area. Licht has put the pieces together for this team. He had an occasional slip up in personell but has corrected it. How many years does it take to really grade a draft… 3-4years.

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flarick

Nice column, Scott. I was at one point torn between the get rid of Jameis Winston now crowd and those willing to see what happens. However, after reading your report that, “Not only did Jameis Winston look awful during Thursday’s practice with the second-string offense, that poor play continued on Friday as the looming three-game suspension and the negative publicity surrounding the suspension appears to be having an obvious affect on his psyche and his performance,” I’m thinking the Bucs may be best served by preparing to cut ties with Winston. When real leaders screw up, they say they’re sorry,… Read more »

Horse

Let’s give it a few more days before we say it has affected Winston. I’d like some more reporting on Griffin.

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seat26

Vea playing behind McCoy? Instead of Nose? Wow. He is quickly slipping into obscurity. Someone said he was a luxury pick. I am getting a bad feeling.

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chefboho

I think you might be reading into that too much. The NT’s they picked up have experience and one is a super bowl champion. Maybe they want to rotate McCoy more to keep him fresh? How many times has that dude been beaten down but stayed on due to no depth? Just a thought

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Dman

+1

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matador

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EastEndBoy

Injuries and turnovers – watch those and that’ll tell you where we’re headed. Lots of shiny new pieces on defense, but they’ll need a new scheme to shine in TB – let’s hope Smitty has something new up his sleeve beyond the rush-4 and play soft coverage of 2017. All 4 NFC South teams have Achilles heals – hopefully we can overcome ours this year. Go Bucs!

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buddah

Carolina and New Orleans will regress toward the mean. They overachieved last year as we were underachieving. We have a lot of new parts and it will take time to gel, but our overall roster is second in our division behind Atlanta. New Orleans is missing a key part for the first four games. That game is winnable. Everything will come down to coaching, execution, and injuries.

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76Buc

Tom Jones is a Marxist idiot. That’s why I no longer read his articles. I like the singer much better. We need to support our players unless they are convicted of felonies. Winston knows he has 2 strikes. One more and he’s out.

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Dman

+1

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drdneast

I don’t know if Jones is a Marxist but he certainly is an idiot. Every time a Bucs player gets in a scrape with the law he wants the Bucs to get rid of them for little or no compensation. The last player was ASJ. Before that it was Aqib Talib, who as we all know achieved All Pro status. It took two No. I picks to replace them and so far Hargreaves hasn’t shown he was worthy of a No. 1 pick. As far as the Talib incident that caused the Bucs to jettison him, because no one was… Read more »

tim111762

Good article. I don’t agree with the “IT WAS 2 YEARS AGO” argument. That should be completely irrelevant. I mean, if you’re not gonna change your ways after narrowly dodging a rape charge in college, why should anyone believe time or being married will suddenly change his ways. I believe that’s simply blind optimism. There are plenty of scumbag husband and fathers out there. If I killed someone and it took them 10 years to catch me, should people say “oh it was 10 years ago he’s changed now…”? No. People should be held accountable for their actions, and those… Read more »

owlykat

Scott, I support your stance on Jameis. If the Bucs should drop Jameis, the Raiders would welcome him with open arms. Their former candidate for Franchise QB was on his way until he had A serious back injury and after surgery looked nothing like his former self, similar to our High Paid Guard who we just dumped, so Gruden knows he needs a new Franchise QB to make him a big success as his own GM. I also believe Jameis loves football and knowing he will be out of football if he doesn’t stick to no alcohol no partying, that… Read more »

matador

If the tables were turned, we had Carr and Winston was cut you’d be laughed off the board for suggesting we pick Winston up. Carr has elite accuracy, if Winston can close half of the gap between his play and Carr we are a playoff team. The encouraging thing is that he just might, the frustrating thing is we can’t tell yet. I’m ready for some football.

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Naplesfan

Putting Koetter on the hotseat but recommending a fat contract extension for Licht, before any games have been played, makes zero sense. Lict has produced a worse win loss record in his tenure than Koetter has so far, and, uhhh, Licht hired Koetter. If the team does not produce again this year, then both Koetter and Licht have to go. We’ve done this every season since Licht got here. He makes a supposed big splash in free agency that typically draws yawns from the rest of NFL world, and similar responses, and in training camp we declare the Bucs are… Read more »

Dy-nasty D

Scott, having touted yourself as a Christian man, this paragraph baffles me: “Winston is helping himself and protecting himself by being as vague as possible, and I don’t blame him. He wants to put this ordeal behind him and not have it linger on with any potential civil suit that he could inadvertently open himself up to by being more forthcoming.” Well, yeah, of course he’d like to move on and avoid a lawsuit or legal consequences. He would have liked to have gotten away w his initial lie and not faced any consequences from the NFL. He also would’ve… Read more »

Ken - Kfromfla

Thanks for the balance and insight Scott Reynolds. Nice piece of reality reporting.

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