FAB 2. David Primed For Big Year In Bowles’ Scheme
The departure of six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy means that linebacker Lavonte David, a seven-year veteran, is now the longest tenured defender in Tampa Bay.
To say that the Bucs defense is now David’s would be an understatement.
Yet the normally quiet David welcomes the fact that rookie inside linebacker Devin White will take over for Kwon Alexander as the defense’s vocal leader and signal caller. David likes to lead by example, and he’ll get the chance to return to that role after having to be the vocal leader last year for the better part of the 2018 season once Alexander tore his ACL in Week 6.
“I don’t think anybody expects more from me,” David said after the departure of McCoy and the potentially season-ending neck injury to veteran pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul. “Everybody expects me to be the same guy that I’ve been, being the leader that I am – the quiet leader that I am. Everybody leans on me for a lot of things and we keep that between ourselves. Guys know what I’m capable of. They know what I bring. They also know the energy I can bring, the motivational factor I can bring. Certain things – sometimes, when guys like JPP go down, stuff like that, my role sometimes has to get a little bigger, but they don’t expect more out of me. They just expect me to be the same person that I’ve been, to be the same helper that I’ve been since I’ve been here.”
There is one area where more should be expected from David this season – on the stats sheet.
David has forced 10 fumbles in the past three years in Mike Smith’s defense, including a career-high five in 2017, and he’s also recovered nine fumbles with a career-best five during the ’17 campaign. But he’s generated just 8.5 of his 21.5 sacks and only had one of his 10 career interceptions during the past three seasons, while failing to record 120 or more tackles.
Bowles’ scheme is a linebacker-driven 3-4 defense where David will be an inside linebacker and will truly be featured, just like he was as a weakside linebacker in Greg Schiano’s defense during his first two years in the league from 2012-13. In 2013, David had his best season, recording 145 tackles, with career highs in sacks (seven) and interceptions (five), along with two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and a safety.
“So far from what I see, there is going to be a lot of pressure from the ‘backers – [and] from other guys also,” David said, “Bowles does a great job of mixing things up, making things look the same, but coming from different ways, different angles and stuff like that. It’s going to be a real nice mix up and I am excited for it. It’s all about execution at the end of the day. As long as everybody is doing what they are supposed to do, it’s going to be fun in the backfield.”
In Bowles’ scheme, David is capable of having another 140-plus tackle seasons, and generating five to seven sacks along with having a hand in creating perhaps as many as 10 takeaways.
“I feel it,” David said. “Every time we meet Coach Bowles always says he’s not looking for guys that sit there and let plays come to them. He’s looking for playmakers. That’s the type of player I am. Everything we do on defense is centered around guys making plays. It’s going to be fun.
“Of course I love blitzing – off the edge, in the A gap, wherever. That’s what we’re going to do. It’s going to be exciting and fun to see. I just have to go out there and execute.”
While being himself, David will be setting quite the example for White, who has already been taken under the veteran’s wing this offseason.
“Something about those LSU guys,” David said. “All of them bring a certain type of energy, certain type of swagger and we’re glad to have him here. He is happy to be here. He’s more than ready to step in and contribute right away. The first day, he was flying around and caught an interception on the second play of practice, so that’s a big positive sign. He’s happy to be here and the first day, he is talking. For a rookie to come in and be talking like that, it’s really amazing to see, so the sky is the limit for him most definitely.”
David is grateful that White has been so eager to learn from him and the two have formed a quick bond that should translate to some early success for the Bucs’ inside ‘backers in 2019.
“It means a lot,” David said. “Obviously, I am the longest tenured guy in the room. I have been here for the longest as. I feel honored, but it’s a whole new defense. I’m learning like I am a rookie again also. Me and him are basically coming in at the same time, we’re going to learn together and try to turn this thing around together.”
Bruce Arians was brought in as the head coach to replace Dirk Koetter and lead the Bucs’ turnaround. He’s grateful to have David on the team to help lead the charge.
“He’s got a resume and a really good one – almost Hall of Fame one,” Arians said. “He’s a very quiet leader. You like those kind of guys, because you just follow them. You don’t have to hear them, you just follow them.”
With David and the charismatic White, Bowles has plenty of leadership and playmaking ability in the middle of his defense.
“It’s important, because you really want a quarterback on every level of the defense,” Bowles said. “Up front, in the middle and in the back, and having one in the middle – not that Lavonte wasn’t, because he is, and he’s a heck of a player – so, we have two in the middle right now and that makes me comfortable.”
After three years of playing read-and-react football in Smith’s defense, David should thrive in the return to a one-gap, attacking style of play under Bowles similar to that which he thrived in with Schiano.
“From what I see right now, there is not a lot of thinking,” David said. “Guys are just lining up and playing football – not a lot of pressure on a lot of guys. Putting guys in a position to make plays and use their skillset. We have a lot of great talent, a lot of great athletes out there, so once you get those guys going, getting them moving, things will be great.”
Expect a great year for Lavonte David.