Tampa Bay Buccaneers

David Does It All for Bucs' Defense

Very few NFL linebackers make an impact in as many different areas of the game, from tackling to pass defense to rushing the passer, as Tampa Bay's Lavonte David.

On Monday, the day after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2015 season ended with a 38-10 loss at Carolina, Head Coach Lovie Smith spent most of his day-after-game press conference talking about the picture, in terms of both the 2015 and 2016 seasons. He did specifically mention one player on the team who finished his season on a high note.

"Lavonte David was outstanding yesterday, too, I might add," said Smith, "like he's been all throughout the year."

True and true.

David tied for the team lead on Sunday with 12 tackles, while also adding a sack, a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. That gave him 147 tackles on the season, just seven behind San Francisco's NaVorro Bowman (154) for the league lead in that category. (Indianapolis' D'Qwell Jackson also topped David with 150 stops.) David obviously led the Buccaneers in tackles, for the fourth time in as many NFL seasons, and also paced his team with 10 tackles for loss, three interceptions and 13 passes defensed.

After tying for seventh in the NFL with 139 tackles in his 2012 rookie season, David has finished in the top five each of the last three years. He is the only player in the NFL who can say that.

NFL's Top Five Tacklers by Season, 2013-15

Year

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

2013

Burfict, CIN

Posluszny, JAX

Alonso, BUF

Kuechly, CAR

David, TB

2014

Kuechly, CAR

Levy, DET

David, TB

Lofton, NO

Worrilow, ATL

2015

Bowman, SF

Jackson, IND

David, TB

Jones, MIA

Posluszny, JAX

David is one of only three NFL players who led his team in both tackles and interceptions, joining Miami safety Reshad Jones (135 and five) and Cleveland's Karlos Dansby (108 and three). The Bucs' star linebacker is the only player in the NFL to lead his team in tackles, interceptions and passes defensed. David's 13 passes defensed were the most in the league by a linebacker; Carolina's Luke Kuechly was the only other 'backer to hit double digits in that category, with 10.

David's combination of production behind the line of scrimmage, in the box and in coverage is remarkable. Since he entered the NFL in 2012, David has racked up 576 tackles, 68 tackles for loss, nine interceptions and 31 passes defensed. Among all defenders, he ranks second in each of those first two categories, behind Kuechly (591) in tackles and Houston's J.J. Watt (119) in tackles for loss.

Among linebackers, David is the only player to rank in the top five in each of those four categories since 2012, and in fact he ranks in the top three in all four.

Top 5 NFL LBs in Four Categories, 2012-15

Tackles

Tackles for Loss

Player

Team(s)

No.

Player

Team(s)

No.

  1. Kuechly

CAR

591

1. David

TB

68

2. David

TB

576

  1. Miller

DEN

62

  1. Jackson

CLE/IND

548

  1. Houston

KC

56

  1. Posluszny

JAX

503

4t. Kerrigan

WAS

53

  1. Timmons

PIT

483

4t. Matthews

GB

53

Interceptions

Passes Defensed

Player

Team(s)

No.

Player

Team(s)

No.

  1. Kuechly

CAR

11

1t. Dansby

3 Teams

36

2. David

TB

9

1t. Kuechly

CAR

36

3t. Dansby

3 Teams

8

3. David

TB

31

3t. Levy

DET

8

  1. D. Smith

JAX/BAL

29

3t. Posluszny

JAX

8

  1. Barwin

HOU/PHI

28

There are a total of 13 linebackers on those four lists combined. Here is where all 13 rank in each of the four categories, plus an average of those four rankings. They are presented alphabetically, and for the purposes of this chart all players tied for a certain ranking get credit for the same rank.

Player

Tackles

TFLs

INTs

PDs

Avg.

Connor Barwin

61

6

82

5

38.5

Karlos Dansby

10

11

3

1

6.3

Lavonte David

2

1

2

3

2.0

Justin Houston

66

3

27

11

26.8

D'Qwell Jackson

3

21

22

6

13.0

Ryan Kerrigan

56

4

82

30

43.0

Luke Kuechly

1

10

1

1

3.3

DeAndre Levy

24

15

3

7

12.3

Clay Matthews

65

4

50

24

35.8

Von Miller

75

2

82

97

64.0

Paul Posluszny

4

20

3

7

8.5

Daryl Smith

17

22

12

4

13.8

Lawrence Timmons

5

17

7

24

13.3

The most prominent sack missing from all the analysis above is, of course, sacks. David ranks only 38th among linebackers in that category over the past four years. The reason for that is the same reason that David has yet to make a Pro Bowl despite his annual dominance: He is lumped into the same position group as a host of 3-4 pass-rushing linebackers. For the same reason, the above chart is not completely fair to such outstanding linebackers as Von Miller and Ryan Kerrigan, who are primarily asked to rush the passer, and do it very well.

Still, 13 sacks in four seasons is not a paltry number for a 4-3 outside linebacker. Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks, the former Buccaneer star and one of the greatest 4-3 OLBs in league history, had 13.5 sacks in his career. If one parses the list to find the linebackers with the most tackles, those at the top are mostly not primary pass-rushers like Miller and Kerrigan. On that list, David's sack total looks very impressive indeed.

Here are the top 20 tacklers among linebackers from 2012-15, along with their sack totals in the same time span:

Player

Team(s)

Tackles

Sacks

Luke Kuechly

CAR

591

7.0

Lavonte David

TB

576

13.0

D'Qwell Jackson

CLE/IND

548

12.0

Paul Posluszny

JAX

503

8.0

Lawrence Timmons

PIT

483

16.0

Jerrell Freeman

IND

478

12.0

David Harris

NYJ

478

15.0

James Laurinaitis

STL

477

8.5

Bobby Wagner

SEA

476

9.5

Karlos Dansby

3 Teams

457

10.5

Curtis Lofton

NO/OAK

456

4.0

Chad Greenway

MIN

444

9.5

NaVorro Bowman

SF

440

9.5

Thomas Davis

CAR

431

12.0

Vontaze Burfict

CIN

401

5.0

K.J. Wright

SEA

398

5.5

Daryl Smith

JAX/BAL

377

9.0

Wesley Woodyard

DEN/TEN

375

14.5

Stephen Tulloch

DET

374

7.0

Perry Riley Jr.

WAS

373

8.5

Only three of the players in the chart above have had more sacks than David since 2012. David and D'Qwell Jackson are the only two linebackers in the NFL over the last four seasons to have at least 500 tackles and at least 10 sacks.

Simply put, Lavonte David has done it all for Tampa Bay's defense, year-in and year-out. Few defenders in the entire NFL have made an impact as big in as many different facets of the game.

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