If there is one position that doesn’t have a lot of question marks it’s the linebackers. Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David are one of the most athletic linebacking duos in the NFL. Due to injury, the other outside spot is up for grabs early on. Who’s the favorite to start along David and Alexander and who might be called upon if another injury happens?
Current Linebackers: Kwon Alexander, Lavonte David, Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Taylor, Devante Bond, Jack Cichy, Riley Bullough, Cameron Lynch, Nigel Harris, Eric Nzeocha
Projected Starters: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Adarius Taylor/Kendell Beckwith
Since coming into the league, both Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have been two of the best at their position. Last season David picked up 101 total tackles, the second-lowest amount in his careers. But according to Pro Football Focus, 2017 was David’s best.
“2017 was a season of renaissance performances from several star players, and another to come back to their best was Tampa Bay linebacker Lavonte David. The 94.2 overall PFF grade actually edges David’s 2013 season as the best year of his career, and he had the third-best run-stop percentage of all linebackers at 11.2 percent, just 0.2 percent behind the league leader (Reuben Foster). David notched 53 defensive stops and had a knack of making big plays, forcing five fumbles, the second-most in the league.”
Alexander was a surprise day-one starter since being drafted in the fourth round of 2015. He certainly hasn’t disappointed. Along with David, Alexander has been in the top two in total tackles each of the past three seasons. He picked up 97 total tackles and showed off his pass defense with three interceptions.
Kendell Beckwith was a third-round pick out of LSU last season and had a chance to start when Alexander was dealing with an injury. He played so well that when Alexander came back, Dirk Koetter decided to just bump him to the outside.
Unfortunately, Beckwith was in a car accident back in April and fractured his ankle. He’s been placed on the Non-Football Injury list and has no timetable for return quite yet. So who takes his spot?
“The evolution of Adarius, Now he’s one of our best special-teams players. He can play all three linebacker spots. … Just a real enjoyable guy and a tough, versatile football player. Versatility at any position helps, and he’s got it.”
Taylor appeared in 14 games with four starts while picking up 26 total tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and fumble recovery. The Bucs are in good hands if Beckwith is out longer than expected.
Projected Backups: Cameron Lynch, Jack Cichy
By the end of 2017, the Bucs had six linebackers on their active roster and this season shouldn’t be any different. Either Beckwith or Taylor will take over the primary backup role depending on injury so that leaves two open spots.
Bucs’ last LB jobs remain hard to peg. Jack Cichy and Riley Bullough most productive in preseason with 10 tackles each, Cam Lynch and Nigel Harris 8 each with 2 special-teams tackles. Injuries to Bond and Bullough also a factor …
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) August 29, 2018
The battle for those last two spots has been between Devante Bond, Riley Bullough, Jack Cichy, and Cameron Lynch. Going into the last preseason game both Bond and Bullough (both on the team last season) are in danger of getting cut since both are dealing with injuries. That means Koetter and GM Jason Licht have a tough choice on their hands.
“Well, Cam Lynch is a proven special teams player, but he’s also a little bit more of a vet so that’s always tricky, Young guys versus vets, upside versus where they’re at right now. That’s something that Jason constantly has to weigh that.”
I expect the Bucs to embarrass this youth movement and keep Lynch and Cichy on the active roster.
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