Position Group: Inside Linebacker
Players: Lavonte David, Devin White, K.J. Britt, SirVocea Dennis, J.J. Russell
2023 Evaluation: Ageless wonder Lavonte David concluded the 2023 season with 4.5 sacks, 134 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and five quarterback hits. With instinctual play, David became the enforcer for Tampa Bay. Whether rushing the passer, covering tight ends or outpacing rushers to the boundary, David made an impact. He possesses textbook tackling, along with an understanding of leverage/angles. David consistently disrupted the opponent's screen game and caused havoc in the intermediate area of the field. The 34-year-old sets the standard of excellence on Tampa Bay's defense, and he continued his reign of terror in 2023.
Devin White dealt with a lingering foot injury in 2023 that caused him to miss playing time. Upon his return from injury, White went from an every-down role to a rotational one with K.J. Britt. Britt made a significant impact in defending the run, garnering an uptick in snaps. White started 13 games and totaled 2.5 sacks, six passes defensed, 83 tackles, five tackles for loss and nine quarterback hits. The LSU product possesses a quick-twitch trigger and rare pursuit speed to close gaps. Britt had four game starts in 2023 and racked up 29 tackles and a tackle for loss with a lethal downhill attack mode. He clogged run lanes with his prowess between the tackles. Britt played with good awareness and diagnosis to locate the football.
SirVocea Dennis, the Bucs' fifth round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, played primarily on special teams but had 101 snaps on defense. Dennis fires off the snap like a cannon and has the ability to get from Point A to B at a quick pace. With great play recognition, Dennis only had four missed tackles registered in 2022 for Pittsburgh and notched 36.0 tackles for loss over his last 35 games at the collegiate level. J.J. Russell contributed in a reserve role, playing 71 snaps on defense and 128 on special teams.
2024 Outlook: Both Lavonte David and Devin White are impending unrestricted free agents. White, Tampa Bay's first-round draft pick in 2019, achieved a Pro Bowl berth, All-Pro status and a Super Bowl ring during his first three seasons with the club. Tough decisions loom for the Buccaneers regarding White and David, the longtime unsung hero. David has accumulated an illustrious Hall of Fame -worthy career on the field and has been the poster of consistency for the Bucs throughout his 12-year career. David could decide to retire, re-sign with the Bucs on a mutual beneficial deal or play elsewhere in 2023. Whatever the outcome, the Bucs will need to bolster depth at inside linebacker for the future through the draft or free agency.