Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2022 State of the Bucs: Inside Linebackers

Taking a position-by-position look at the Buccaneers heading into the 2022 offseason, continuing with the inside linebackers


Position Group: Inside Linebacker

Players: K.J. Britt, Lavonte David, Kevin Minter, Grant Stuard, Devin White

2021 Evaluation: The majority of the inside linebacker duties on defense were handled by the well-established duo of Lavonte David and Devin White, both of whom had been second-team Associated Press second-team All-Pro selections the year before. White would go on to earn his first Pro Bowl berth in 2021. As usual, those two were at the heart of a defense that finished third in rushing yards allowed, fourth in yards allowed per pass play, sixth in points allowed and ninth in total DVOA, as calculated by Football Outsiders.

White started every game in 2021, including the postseason, and was on the field for all but 54 of a possible 1,271 defensive snaps. David missed two midseason games with an ankle injury and had a three-week stint on injured reserve at the end of the regular season due to a foot ailment. In the 15 games in which he did play, he was on the field for 95% of the defensive snaps. Steady veteran Kevin Minter picked up the slack whenever David was sidelined, while rookies K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard played almost exclusively on special teams other than a couple late-game mop-up appearances.

White led the Bucs' defense with 128 tackles and despite the five games missed David was second with 97 stops. That marked just the second time in 10 NFL seasons that David has fallen short of triple digits in tackles, but he still nearly matched his career-long rate of 8.2 stops per game. Both White and David also contributed in a myriad of other ways. White turned in 3.5 sacks and was second on the team with 18 quarterback hits while also recording eight tackles for loss, three passes defensed and one fumble recovery. David continued a career-long trend by forcing two fumbles while also collecting 2.0 sacks, three passes defensed, five tackles for loss, four quarterback hits and a fumble recovery.

In the postseason, David and White each added 13 tackles and White continued to pressure the passer with four quarterback hits while breaking up two passes. David had one of the team's four fumble recoveries over two playoff games.

As he has for the past three years, Minter provided reliable production as the next man in if either David or White missed time. In five starts he had 33 tackers, two tackles for loss, one sack and three QB hits. Stuard finished as the Buccaneers leader in special teams tackles, with 11, and Britt added five stops in that phase of the game.

2022 Outlook: Unlike most corners on the Buccaneers' depth chart heading into the 2022 offseason, the inside linebacker group does not have to worry much about losing its starters or some of its depth to free agency. Of the five ILBs on the current roster, only Minter is a pending unrestricted free agent, and he has played the last three seasons in Tampa on one-year contracts, a trend that could continue in 2022.

However, the Buccaneers set about building some younger depth at the position in last year's draft, picking Britt in the fifth round and Stuard in the seventh. Both are under contract for three more seasons on their rookie deals, and while they were mostly used on special teams in 2021 their roles could grow in the future.

"For the roles that we drafted them for and to play on special teams, I thought they did a fantastic job," said General Manager Jason Licht at the NFL Scouting Combine. "They'll continue to grow as position players, as well. We think K.J. has a really good chance to be a good linebacker, as well as Grant, in some sort of role at some point. Just the way they brought their energy every day, the entire team benefitted from the way they carried themselves."

Of course, the Buccaneers likely won't have to count on those second-year linebackers to pick up significant roles on defense since both David and White are also under contract for 2022. David will be in the second year of what is really a two-year deal signed last year, with three automatically voiding years on the end for cap purposes. White is still on his rookie contract, and though he's heading into his fourth season the Buccaneers have already picked up the fifth-year team option that comes with first-round picks, which runs thorugh the 2023 season.

And both White and David are still at the top of their respective games, even though David already has a decade in the NFL under his belt. David still patrols the middle of the field with outstanding range and instincts and remains one of the league's best at creating turnovers and making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. White is a big-play maker with impressive pass-rushing skills and a self-proclaimed desire to make an even bigger impact in 2022. The Buccaneers are in good hands at the inside linebacker position for the upcoming season, though they may look for a bit of veteran depth, either with another re-signing of Minter or another value signing in free agency.