After a perceived “down” season for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, there’s growing concern amongst the Buccaneers community that the young linebacker isn’t the stud he was thought to be, but that is far from the case.
Devin White has become a bit the subject of scrutiny amongst Bucs fans, not all, but they are definitely those out there. Twitter reveals all folks. Be sure to remember that.
One aspect of White’s game that brought ire to fans was his decline in coverage, or at least was they thought was a decline. Here’s the meat and potatoes of the matter before we really dive into it. After Super Bowl LV, Buccaneers fans figured they had another Derrick Brooks on their hands, or at the very least Lavonte David. White was absolutely phenomenal his first two seasons, and in the playoffs he found yet another gear. Heck, this writer made the case that White and David should have been co-MVPs of Super Bowl LV.
Once cracks in White’s game started showing themselves, as is the case for literally any player to ever live, the bloom started to fall off the rose in the eyes of some Bucs fans, leading to them to become concerned about the linebacker.
Here is why the Devin White concern amongst Buccaneers fans is completely overblown.
For starters, the aforementioned David, the captain and leader of the defense if not most of the team, went down with injury. That meant that White had to step up and be the sole leader in the middle, but was also basically left on an island in the middle of the defense. That’s not throwing shade at Kevin Minter and others, but let’s be real, they weren’t David, and few linebackers are. White had to basically make plays on his own sideline to sideline, and teams were able to take advantage. Still, the Bucs found ways to win games.
Then there’s the coverage issue. Numbers may not lie, and they also tell decent stories. We’re at the point where analytics are king, and whether you’re a fan of that or not, rules are tules so we’re here to oblige. Looking at White’s numbers in coverage, they actually improved from the Buccaneers 2020 Super Bowl season to 2021, as shocking as it may seem to some.
In 2020, White was targeted 84 times, giving up 70 completions for a percentage of 83.3% for a total of 626 yards and three touchdowns. In 2021, White’s completion percentage to opposing quarterbacks whilst in coverage dipped to 82.1%. Granted, he was only targeted 78 times, and his total receptions given up dipped to 64, as did his yards, decreasing to 544 yards allowed.
Now, his detractors will point to the fact that since he was targeted less, of course his numbers will be down. However, the counter to that is the simply that perhaps he wasn’t thrown at as much because the players he covered weren’t open as much, pretty simple concept. Also, in 2020 he averaged 8.9 yards per completion in coverage, and in 2021 it was 8.5 yards. So there’s that.
Still not convinced? Well, unlike 2020, in 2021 White did not give up a receiving touchdown in coverage, and that stat helped him make his first Pro Bowl. Do with that what you will. Despite the statical improvement in the passing game, the disrespect to White continues.
So now the shade isn’t just coming from Bucs fans, it’s reached national levels. To say that the Buccaneers wouldn’t take Devin White again given the chance is crazy talk.
At the end of the day, fans will always find things to discuss around the water cooler to get heated over. It’s the way of the world in the NFL, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are no different. It’s especially true during the dog days of Summer.
However, fans can rest easy knowing that Devin White is still every bit of the stud that he was initially looking to be, and will only get better. Everything is going to be ok there are much bigger fish to fry with this team, and even those issues are overblown too. Those are discussions for another time though.