Indulge me for a little bit in a departure from objective journalistic protocol. This article is solely devoted to the 2020 Lavonte David Pro Bowl campaign. Fan voting for the 2020 Pro Bowl began today and runs until Dec. 12 right here. That means you can go and vote for David at least once before you even read on. Seriously, go.
There are many deserving Buccaneers this season, to be sure. The names Mike Evans and Chris Godwin come to mind off the top of my head. But this plea for the David selection is the sword I chose to fall on long ago and it's the one I shall live and die with.
The crazy part is, it shouldn't be a plea. David has the third-most combined tackles of any player in the league (953) since he graced it with his presence in 2012. He's tied for the second-most tackles for loss with Calais Campbell and just behind J.J. Watt – who have both lined up ON the line of scrimmage for nearly every play of their careers. David is an off-ball linebacker, taking residence in the underneath zone more often than not. It means he has further to go and still drops players in the backfield. David's closest comparison position-wise in that specific stat is Carolina inside linebacker Luke Kuechly, a great player and perennial Pro Bowl selection, who has a paltry 74 tackles for loss compared to David's 112 in that span.
David also has the most fumble recoveries in the league since 2012 after forcing and recovering a fumble this past Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals. He was tied with J.J. Watt but now moves into sole possession of the top ranking.
Yet David has only been selected to the Pro Bowl ONCE. He earned All-Pro honors in 2013 and didn't get selected that year. He had to wait until 2015 to get his first and only selection. How that makes sense is anyone's guess because I sure don't have an answer for you. He has this sixth-most forced fumbles in that span, too.
The biggest critique – if you could call it that – is that David operated all of his career up until this year in a 4-3 base defense. Playing weakside linebacker technically put David in the category of 'outside linebacker' where he was lumped in with guys like Denver's Von Miller and other pass rushers who hoard all the gaudy sack stats. See, outside linebackers in 4-3 defenses are used mostly in coverage and very rarely are tasked with getting to the quarterback. And unfortunately, we seem to think sacks = good defense. Really, there are a plethora of other traits and stats we can use to measure defensive performance, like that whole fumble recovery thing David likes to do. Things like that actually changes possession and gives his team the ball back, by the way. I'd argue recovering fumbles > sacks, but I digress.
It brings me to why now, why this year. Why am I campaigning so hard to get Lavonte David selected? Because he is now classified as an inside linebacker due to the Bucs' switch to a base 3-4 defense. His leads the team with 69 combined tackles and is thriving under the new scheme. He has a sack, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, an interception and six tackles for loss this season. He's literally all over the place and it's high-time he was also in the Pro Bowl.
Vote again here.