In the final edition of The Pewter Plank’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers position previews series, the linebackers take the spotlight.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers star-studded linebacking corps will play a key role in turning around the worst defense of 2017.
Led by Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander, the Bucs linebackers will finally get some help from an improved defensive line, which will only help the former Pro Bowlers.
Throughout his six seasons in red and pewter, David has become one of the best linebackers in the league. While Alexander is blossoming into a perennial Pro Bowler.
What has held them back is their supporting cast. Tampa’s defense has been awful for the past few seasons and it has cast a dark cloud on their bright careers. For the first time together, they will be able to play key roles in a strong defense.
Last season, Tamps Bay found what projects to be a solid group of linebackers. Between David, Alexander, Kendell Beckwith and Adarius Taylor the Buccaneers have four strong options to choose from.
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Beckwith was a third-round pick out of LSU last season and provided solid production with 73 combined tackles during his rookie season. Unfortunately, Beckwith underwent ankle surgery after he was in a car accident in April and hasn’t suited up for practice yet.
With an opening in the starting lineup Taylor and Devante Bond, who saw time with Tampa Bay last season will battle for the starting job. Sixth-round pick Jack Cichy will be in the mix as well.
On the roster:
Lavonte David, Adarius Taylor, Devante Bond, Kwon Alexander, Eric Nzeocha, Riley Bullough, Nigel Harris, Cameron Lynch, Jack Cichy, Shaheed Salmon, Kendell Beckwith (Active/Non-football injury)
On the bubble:
Cameron Lynch, Eric Nzeocha, Riley Bullough, Nigel Harris, Shaheed Salmon
The battle for the final linebacker spots will be between Bullough, Lynch, Bond and Taylor. From their experience last season Taylor and Bond should be safe, while Lynch and Bullough will begin a rematch of last season’s camp battle.
Lynch probably has the edge and could be the seventh linebacker if Tampa Bay decides to keep that number. Also, Beckwith’s status could allow for another body to sneak onto the roster Week one.
Kwon Alexander needs to prove his Pro Bowl appearance wasn’t a fluke. If he can improve upon last season, the Buccaneers linebackers are in good shape.
In 12 games, Alexander racked up 70 combined tackles and three picks. At only 24-years-old his stock rose and has since become a building block of the Tampa defense. While he still will put up an impressive stat line, hopefully, he will be asked to do less this season.
The Buccaneers defensive line will be better against the run and will allow Alexander to focus more on coverage. He will be matched up against running backs and tight ends often next season. He needs to be at the top of his game to take the pressure off a questionable secondary.
This is an exciting year for the Buccaneers linebacking corps. With the veteran David leading the way, both Beckwith and Alexander are in for big seasons.
The aforementioned linebacking trio will also see more success thanks to an injection of talent this offseason. Paired up with a strong d-line, the front seven could be one of the best in football.
After being the lone bright spot of the Buccaneers defense for so long, the linebackers have finally been rewarded with a functioning supporting cast.