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Beckwith Pacing All NFL Rookies

Posted Oct 9, 2017

Stat Shots: LB Kendell Beckwith has taken on a bigger-than-expected role in the Bucs' defense and has produced impressive numbers, leading all league rookies in tackles

Through the first quarter of the 2017 season, Kendell Beckwith is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' leading tackler with 36, 32 of which are solo stops. It wasn't supposed to be that way.

Beckwith's spot at the top of the Bucs' tackle chart is the result of his own outstanding play plus some specific injury fortune, both good and bad. The good is Beckwith himself; the knee injury he suffered at LSU last November caused him to drop to the third round of the draft and was thought to possibly delay the start of his NFL career. Instead, he started his rookie training camp without limitations, about eight months after the injury, and was ready to go opening weekend. The bad injury news followed, as Kwon Alexander went down with a hamstring injury late in the Bucs' opener and Lavonte David sprained an ankle the following weekend.

Beckwith, who started the season's first game at strongside linebacker, has moved into the middle during Alexander's protracted absence. He also became part of the two-LB nickel package, with David initially and then with Adarius Glanton. It's not a stretch to say that Beckwith, who has all of four regular-season games as an NFL player, has held the middle of the Buccaneers' defense together during what could have been a disastrous stretch with two of the team's best players shelved.

READ: Bucs Bring Back K Patrick Murray

Particularly effective against the run, Beckwith has been a tackling machine, averaging more than 10 stops a game since he moved into the middle. The only Buccaneer ever to have more solo tackles through the first four games of a season, according to Pro Football Reference (PRF), is the man he's replacing, Kwon Alexander. Alexander's top mark came last year, in his second season, making Beckwith the highest-ranking rookie on the list. That honor used to belong to his other current linebacker running mate, Lavonte David.

Most Solo Tackles, First Four Games of a Season, Buccaneers

Player Pos. Season Tackles
1. Kwon Alexander LB 2016 34
2. Kendell Beckwith LB 2017 32
3t. Lavonte David LB 2014 31
3t. Mason Foster LB 2012 31
5. Lavonte David LB 2012 28

It's fair to note that all of those totals have come in the current decade. Tackles have never been an "official" NFL statistic and they have been compiled in different ways through the years. However, the compilation has been standardized in recent year, using the totals gathered by on-site stat crews during games, so they are useful for comparisons of current and recent players. As such, it's at least encouraging to see Beckwith grouped with two legitimate Buccaneer stars, Alexander and David. Eventually, when the latter two players return, those three may form one of the most productive linebacking corps in the entire NFL.

Beckwith's 14 tackles in last Thursday night's contest against the Patriots were the most compiled in a single game by a rookie since David had 16 at Oakland on Nov. 4, 2012. His 12 solo stops are the most by any Buccaneer player since Alexander had 15 in last year's opening-day win at Atlanta (Sept. 11, 2016). It is one of just four games by a Buccaneer defender in the last five years to feature double-digit solo tackles, again according to PFR.

Most Solo Tackles, Game, Buccaneers, 2013-17

Player Pos. Opp. Date Solos
1. Kwon Alexander LB @ATL 9/11/16 15
2. Kendell Beckwith LB NE 10/5/17 12
3t. Mark Barron S NO 9/15/13 10
3t. Lavonte David LB @PIT 9/28/14 10

Beckwith is on pace to record 144 tackles by the end of the season
. While the eventual returns of Alexander and David will likely cost him some snaps – those two form a very good nickel-package duo – the rookie should continue to have a prominent role in the Bucs' defense. Beckwith is on pace for 128 solo tackles, which would be a new record for the Buccaneers. He doesn't have to hit that mark in order to set a new team record for rookies. Here are the players he's chasing, unsurprisingly led by David, according to PFR.

Most Solo Tackles, Rookie Season, Buccaneers

Player Pos. Season Solos
1. Lavonte David LB 2012 112
2. Tony Covington S 1991 84
3. Rod Jones CB 1986 80
4. Mark Barron S 2012 72
5. Santana Dotson DT 1992 71

Beckwith has been a key part in a defensive improvement that the team made a focal point over the offseason: Becoming more stout against the run. Tampa Bay allowed 117.2 rushing yards per game and 4.39 yards per carry last year. Through the first four games of 2017, those numbers have shrunk to 87.3 yards per game and 3.36 yards per carry. As a team, the Buccaneers have shown the seventh-largest reduction in their yards-per-carry mark in the league from 2016 to 2017.

Yards Per Carry Allowed, Biggest Improvement from 2016 to 2017

Team 2016 2017 Difference
Denver 4.33 2.42 -1.91
Cleveland 4.58 2.88 -1.70
Miami 4.84 3.15 -1.69
San Francisco 4.84 3.55 -1.29
Minnesota 4.24 3.06 -1.18
Detroit 4.37 3.27 -1.10
Tampa Bay 4.39 3.36 -1.03
Buffalo 4.55 3.59 -0.96
Chicago 4.38 3.49 -0.89
Indianapolis 4.71 3.86 -0.85

Beckwith leads all NFL rookies this season in both total tackles and solo stops. He is the only rookie to already top 30 tackles, according to PFR, even though he's played one fewer game than most of them.

NFL's Top Rookie Tacklers, 2017

Player Team Pos. GP ST AT TT
1. Kendell Beckwith TB LB 4 32 4 36
2. Zach Cunningham HOU LB 5 13 14 27
3t. Shaquill Griffin SEA CB 5 21 4 25
3t. Jamal Adams NYJ S 5 18 7 25
5t. TreDavious White BUF CB 5 19 4 23
5t. Marcus Maye NYJ S 5 18 5 23
5t. Jarrad Davis DET LB 3 16 7 23
8t. Jourdain Lewis DAL CB 4 19 3 22
9t. Josh Jones GB S 5 19 2 21
9t. Adoree' Jackson TEN CB 5 18 3 21
9t. Jabrill Peppers CLE S 5 16 5 21

One round before they grabbed Beckwith in the 2017 draft, the Buccaneers picked safety Justin Evans out of Texas A&M. With both Keith Tandy and T.J. Ward out with hip injuries last week, Evans joined Beckwith in the starting lineup. Evans ended the Patriots' first drive of the game with a diving interception, becoming the seventh rookie in franchise history to pick off a pass in his first career start (not including 1987 replacement players). The other six were cornerback Leonard Johnson (2012), safety Melvin Johnson (1995), safety Marty Carter (1991), safety Odie Harris (1988), safety Ray Isom (1987) and linebacker Cecil Johnson (1977).

Evans's pick ended a string of 264 straight passes without an interception for New England quarterback Tom Brady, dating back to the 2016 season. Evans is the first rookie to record an interception off Brady in three years, the last being New York Jets cornerback Marcus Williams on Dec. 21, 2014.

Not a rookie? Gerald McCoy, the veteran defensive tackle and anchor of the Buccaneers' defense. McCoy recorded six quarterback pressures through Tampa Bay's first three games of the season but was held without a sack. He got that first sack of the season on Thursday night, taking down Brady. That pushed his career total to 43.5 sacks, still the fourth-most in franchise history. McCoy has posted 34.5 sacks since the start of the 2013 season, which ranks first in the NFL among defensive tackles in that span.

Most Sacks, Defensive Tackles, NFL, 2013-17

Player Team(s) GP Sacks
1. Gerald McCoy TB 63 34.5
2. Geno Atkins CIN 62 33.0
3. Jurrell Casey TEN 67 29.5
4. Aaron Donald * LAR 52 29.0
5. Ndamukong Suh DET/MIA 68 26.0
* Entered league in 2014

McCoy also batted down one of Brady's passes on Thursday night, his first of the season and his 14th in that same time span (2013-17). He's in the top five among defensive tackles in the last five seasons in that category, as well.

Player Team(s) GP Sacks
1t. Malik Jackson DEN/JAX 69 20
1t. Ndamukong Suh DET/MIA 68 20
3. Haloti Ngata BAL/DET 59 17
4. Sen'Derrick Marks JAX 52 15
5. Gerald McCoy TB 63 14