Two great off-ball linebackers for the Buccaneers.
Derrick Brooks has gone down as one of the most feared linebackers in Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ history, due in large part to his 2002 Defensive Player of the Year season. While this was an impressive achievement for Brooks, it wasn’t this award that earned him a spot in Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ lore. It was his playoff performance during the team’s Super Bowl run that truly cemented him amongst the Buccaneer greats.
The chances of ever finding another Derrick Brooks-like player are slim, and that is why it has been difficult for the Bucs to find a steady linebacker, such as Brooks. However, they may have struck gold with the 5th pick in the 2019 NFL Draft.
Jason Licht and the Buccaneers decided to pick the dominating linebacker out of LSU, Devin White. As soon as White arrived in Tampa, there were high expectations. A team doesn’t take a linebacker at the number five overall pick unless they expect him to be a top tier linebacker in the league.
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Fortunately for the Buccaneers, Devin White has been living up to these expectations, and even exceeding them. He plays fast, he plays strong, and most importantly, he plays smart. In a matter of two years, White has become one of the captains of the vaunted Tampa defense. Now there are whispers of, “could this be our next Derrick Brooks?”
The reason why they are only whispers and not full-on conversations is that no-one wants to jinx the young kid – there’s a lot of pressure that comes along with that name. Brooks is a legend in Tampa because of what he did for the city during the playoff run that lead to a Super Bowl victory. Legends are made in the playoffs.
The play of Devin White during this year’s playoff run has been legendary, and there is no doubt that, just like the ’02 Bucs wouldn’t have been the same without Derrick Brooks, the 2020 Buccaneers would be a shell of themselves without Devin White.
When looking at the numbers for the ’02-’03 playoff run, Derrick Brooks had a good game in each of his three matches, none being better than the Super Bowl, where he dominated the Oakland Raiders.
Great Buccaneers in their first playoff run
In the first playoff game, playing against the San Francisco 49ers, Brooks had 7 combined tackles, half a sack, one pass deflection, one fumble recovery, and one interception. In other words, number 55 was flying around the field, being everywhere, all of the time.
As for Devin White, in his first playoff game, playing against the New Orleans Saints, he had 11 combined tackles, 10 of them being solo, and 1 tackle for loss. To go along with his tackles, White had one pass deflection, one fumble recovery, which he returned 18 yards, and one interception, returning it 28 yards.
After the ’02-’03 Bucs beat the 49ers, they had to travel to Philadelphia to take on the Eagles, who beat them multiple times in the playoffs and the regular season. This time, it was for the NFC Championship, and revenge was in order. Derrick Brooks had a decent night, getting another 7 combined tackles, one tackle for loss, and one pass deflection. He didn’t recover any turnovers, but his presence was felt.
As for Devin White and the ’20-’21 Bucs, they had to travel up to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field to take on Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. White needed to have another big game, and he did just that. This time he had 15 combined tackles and one fumble recovery that he returned for 21 yards, setting up Tom Brady and the offense with excellent field position.
In the Super Bowl against the Raiders, Derrick Brooks was primed to have a great game. While he showed up big in the previous two games, he didn’t take the game over either. It was his performance in Super Bowl 37 that cemented Derrick Brooks in Buccaneer lore.
Brooks had another 7 combined tackles and one tackle for loss, but these are not the plays that are shown in highlights of Super Bowl 37. With 1:25 left in the game, Rich Gannon threw the ball over the middle and Derrick Brooks jumped in front of the pass and returned the ball 44 yards, stabbing the proverbial dagger in the heart of the Raiders.
Devin White hasn’t played in the Super Bowl yet, but there is no doubt that he is going to need a Derrick Brooks-like game to keep Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs pinned down.
It’s a tall order for Devin White, but there is one guarantee if he’s able to do this – there will once again be another linebacker that goes down in Buccaneer lore, and his name will be Devin White.
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