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 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

40 COMMENTS

  1. 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 in not trying to work on the other half. Maybe this is occurring and we just don’t know about it? I also agree that LIcht needs to be extended. The talent base on this team, when you look at all of the hits and misses, has increased dramatically over the last decade.

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    • Thank you, e! Jameis Winston’s counseling is a private matter I’m sure. We’re not privy to any details.

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      • 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 hopes the driver would back down. There’s nothing vague about his answers… they are obviously attempts to evade the truth.

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  2. 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.
    The writers such as TOm Jones and some of the fans never wanted him here in the first place, so this just validates their ability to say those kinds of things.
    Football is jameis’ life, he’s probably dying a little right now, but he has to pick his ass up and get it. He put himself in this position and now it’s time to show everyone what a guy does when he’s down. Those first three weeks will be brutal for him for sure, but he’s got to focus on what he can control. Jameis’ time in Tampa will be decided on the field this year as I’ve stated a couple of posts ago. IT’s all on him to do it.
    I would love to see some of our LB’s blitzing more. Can’t figure out how lavonte went from a blitzing machine in Schiano’s defense and hasn’t done much in that department in the last two defenses. Of course Schiano ran a much more aggressive defense that Lovie and Smith do.
    Great to see the boys back on the field , that’s what matters most to me. Let’s shock a few people.

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    • Thank you, cgmaster27. It was important for me to point that out – that if Jameis Winston admits to anything specific or apologizes for anything specific, he basically incriminates himself and opens him up for a civil lawsuit and a cash grab opportunity.

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

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      • 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 case. If anything happened at all. It would still be wrong, if it happened, but was it an act worthy of a hundred thousand dollar plus offense? Not sure.

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  3. 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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  4. 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 and become a top 5 QB. That is a big jump from top 15 and I would not expect him to get all the way there this season. But improvement needs to occur. The weapons are there. The only potential excuse is the OL. RG and RT may let us down this year and a strong left side may not be enough. That said, if Winston cannot break into the top 10, that could be a reason for letting Koetter go, even if we finish 9-7. I am looking forward to a vastly improved defense and I hope it is enough to get us that winning record. The one chance I see of us making the playoffs is that the defense becomes dominant. It is a slim chance due to the secondary and the number of new players. The secondary is very young and our sole star is an old Grimes. And it usually takes more than a year for the new players to gel. Still it could happen.

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  5. 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 is and should be on the hot seat. Hell Raheem morris got a 10-6 season out of a much less tallented team than we have right now. I think a 10-6 season is what it will take for Koetter to for sure retain his head coaching duties. A 9-7 or 8-8 season may still get him fired that is barely good enough in my mind. This team is way too talented for that even with our “tough schedule”. You know as well as i do that not every team that went to the playoffs last year will make it this year so I believe our record after 3 games will be better than most people think even with Fitz at QB.

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    • Thank you, Benjamin!

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  6. 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 were based on extremely poor player evaluation. He took a kicker thinking that was the last piece and it was not. We have added many “last” pieces since thens and may still not be there. He has made several good picks but I discount the Winston pick as really there was only two ways to go and both are in about the same place. Mike Evans is clearly a success and VHGIII is clearly not one. Justin Evans may be a success but it is too early to tell. Every year the team has had major holes in a unit. Last two years the offensive line, secondary, running back and defensive line all lacked talent. It wasn’t just coaching.

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    • 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 after hiring the Retired Giants Coach to right their program. He beat New England with a Giant team built from the trenches first and loaded with Great DEs. The Jags built up both their lines with Free Agency and the draft where they got a Great RB in the first round. Licht rebuilt our DL with great Free Agents and first round pick and got us a good Free Agent Center and an excellent Tackle to help the OL and got us an outstanding RB at the top of the second round and got us two good CBs and a fast Safety who hits hard also in the draft. He didn’t go BPA without concern to needs until the last two picks who will make this team I believe. Oh and he got us a veteran place Kicker too. For those reasons I support him getting a raise now and staying. I am not convinced our OL will be as good as many fans do but that is because of Keeping OL Coach Warhop who has made glaring OL mistakes every year he’s been here.

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  7. 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 .

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    • Thank you, Horse. I think Jameis Winston looks like he’s in great shape. QBs typically don’t have big arms. Look at Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, etc.

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  8. 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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    • I appreciate it, FLyBoy!

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  9. 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, which Jameis has done, sort of, in light of the legal jeopardy an outright apology could put him in, then they move on and perform at their usual high level, regardless of any new assignment. By looking awful with the second-string on Thursday and again on Friday, after his first press conference, which should have been a load off his mind, I’m wondering whether Winston feels that unless he’s in the spotlight, it’s not worth the energy to lead the second or even third team with the same commitment he gives to his first team reps? Again, we owe him the courtesy of seeing what happens, but if his play as the third string QB remains poor, his true attitude regarding leading the team is going to become increasingly suspect in my mind.

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    • 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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    • Thank you, flarick. We are only 2 days into camp. LONG way to go and WAY TOO EARLY to make any big assessment on Jameis Winston’s play. I just reported what I saw at the start of camp. Don’t jump the gun.

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  10. 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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    • 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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    • Hold up! Gerald McCoy is 30 and isn’t going to play forever. Defensive linemen typically take a couple years to really develop. Warren Sapp wasn’t really “Warren Sapp” until 1997 and he was drafted in 1995. Getting Vita Vea in the fold now to learn for a year or two behind Gerald and then replace him is a smart move long-term.

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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14. 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 injured and found the incident humorous.
    The sight of Talib and his mom wrestling over a heater in order to be the one to pump a round into the guy who had just beaten up his sister most have been hilarious. Perhaps Jones might have had a little more empathy for Talib if someone had ever beaten the snot out of his sister if he has one.
    It’s extremely rare to be able to find boy scouts to play in a sport that is fraught with career ending injuries and calls for the person to engage in physical violent contact with another human being.
    Jones can go pound sand.
    Winston made a mistake and is paying for it.
    The job Jones is looking to occupy is already filled by an entity we will all have to answer to.
    And I expect Winston to bounce back as he always has. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit.

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  15. 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 actions include being stupid enough to put yourself in any situation that could get you in trouble with women. He shouldnt be given a pass from people because it took 2 years for the investigation to conclude.

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  16. 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 is the best motivation for him to stay straight. The only thing that worries me is what happened to a Golfer Legend after he fell from grace with his fans; he has never returned to his former skill set though he has tried. If Jameis continues to get hate from the fans and sports writers, he may never recover or he may refuse any offer from the Bucs and try a fresh start with Chucky.

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    • 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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  17. 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 finally back … and then THUD! 5-11. And then half those superstars we signed the season before are off the roster when training camp starts.

    This current regime, including Licht, had better deliver THIS season, or the Bucs need to get another regime.

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  18. 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 preferred that the Uber driver didn’t even report the incident. Your approving of this lack of accountability is appalling. If this woman, was indeed sexually assaulted, a decent person wouldn’t promote dodging responsibility. She would deserve every penny she could get from this very wealthy, and apparently entitled, man.

    Perplexed that a so-called Christian man doesn’t see the amorality of your statements. Jesus’ message wasn’t one of helping and protecting yourself, it was to treat others as you would like to be treated. Maybe you have a different Bible than I have?

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

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