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David and White Continue the Hustle | A Next Gen Look at Bucs-Vikings

The Bucs' off-ball linebacker duo of Lavonte David and Devin White were at the heart of a strong defensive effort in the season opener, making plays all over the field

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers won their 2023 season opener, 20-17, on the road against the Minnesota Vikings. In the process, a swarming Buccaneers defense held Kirk Cousins and company to nearly eight points fewer than their average in 2022, when they ranked seventh in the league in scoring. At the heart of that defensive effort was the relentless off-ball linebacking duo of Lavonte David and Devin White.

White led the team with a dozen tackles and David added stops, and the two combined for three tackles for losses. They both roamed the field from sideline to sideline and they did a particularly good job of limiting the Vikings' short passing game.

"[White] and Lavonte both played all over the field," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "If it wasn't one, it was the other one. They did a good job finding the hider, the bootlegs, and they did a good job cleaning up plays that the D-line set up for them. They did a good job flying around, period. Both of them had double digit tackles, both of them were all over the place. They really showed their leadership."

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, White was the nearest defender on three of Cousins' 44 passes, and those three plays resulted in two catches for a loss of two yards. David was targeted six times, and while all six were complete they amounted to just 27 total yards. White also recorded two quarterback pressures while David added a run stuff, according to NGS.

Two plays on the Vikings' last two drives, both of which went three-and-out and were sandwiched around Chase McLaughlin's game-winning 57-yard field goal, are indicative of the performance of the Bucs' two star linebackers. On the first one, Cousins tried a play-action rollout pass to tight end T.J. Hockenson on the left side. White covered 18.64 yards to get to Hockenson's location, and he did it so swiftly that the play lost four yards. The drive never recovered.

The second play also went to Hockenson, this time on what was meant to be an inside screen. David diagnosed the play instantly, dashed around the man who was designated to block him, guard Ezra Cleveland, and dropped Hockenson for another four-yard loss. Once again, a punt was the end result, and the Vikings never got the ball on offense again.

Neither of those plays quite qualified as a "hustle stop," as defined by Next Gen Stats. To get credited with a hustle stop, a defender has to travel at least 20 yards from where he is at the snap to where he makes the play. But that's okay. There will certainly be plenty of hustle stops in the future for those two defenders, because nobody in the league collects as many as David and White do.

The Buccaneers drafted Devin White fifth overall in the 2019 draft. According to NGS, he has since racked up 71 hustle stops. The only player in the league who has had more hustle stops in that same time span, with 73…is Lavonte David.

Over the course of the game, both White and David were briefly sidelined due to injuries, but both quickly came back into the action. That was good news for the Buccaneers, who very much needed their hustling, playmaking linebackers in the middle of their defense to stop a high-powered Vikings attack.

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