CBS Sports recently posted a countdown of the NFL’s top ten linebackers. To no surprise both Tampa Bay Buccaneers inside linebackers made the cut. Devin White was ranked sixth while Lavonte David came in at number five.
In response to today’s pass-happy NFL, most teams feature three cornerbacks in their base defense, a “pure” or “natural” linebacker, and a second linebacker that is essentially a converted and larger safety. This had become the “norm” in what many think defenses should look like.
Then Super Bowl LV happened.
The Buccaneers 2020 Super Bowl run of course was assisted by a little ballplayer by the name of Tom Brady at quarterback, but make no mistake about it, this was about the Bucs defense. They essentially retired Drew Brees, drove Aaron Rodgers out of Green Bay, and are currently living in the nightmares of Patrick Mahomes.
Two of the biggest reasons for this were linebackers, David and White.
The Buccaneers were basically the only team in the league with two bonafide stud linebackers, and it resulted in a championship. It’s even more reflected by the fact that in CBS’s top ten linebackers list, they are the only team to feature two.
In the Super Bowl, they jumped off the screen. White lead all players with eight solo tackles (twelve total), while David was tied for second of all players with six solo tackles. White also added in the interception late in the game that proved to be the Super Bowl dagger. They were flying around the ball all night and could have easily won the co-MVPs of the game.
During the 2020 season, White and David accounted for 257 tackles and 27 tackles for loss for a Bucs defense that ranked sixth in the NFL. They complement each other flawlessly, and are the heart and soul of the championship defense.
David may very well wind up in Canton some day, and under his tutelage, White May have a similar path at the rate he’s going. CBS was correct in putting them both in their top ten.
For reference, the linebackers that came in ahead of these two studs in order were Darius Leonard, Eric Kendricks, Fred Warner, and finally Bobby Wagner. Whether or not you feel that’s warranted is an argument for another time. Regardless of the ranking, the Buccaneers are in phenomenal shape with these two phenomenal athletes in the middle of their defense.