In the fourth quarter of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' game against the Chicago Bears on Sunday, linebacker Lavonte David broke up a Jay Cutler pass intended for Jeremy Langford. It was David's 13th pass defensed of the season, the most among all linebackers in the NFL in 2015. He is the only player at his position to hit double digits in that category through 16 weeks.
Most Passes Defensed, Linebacker, 2015
- Lavonte David
2t. Kwon Alexander
2t. D'Qwell Jackson
2t. Luke Kuechly
5t. Connor Barwin
5t. Derrick Johnson
5t. Telvin Smith
5t. Bobby Wagner
David has been one of the best pass-coverage linebackers in the NFL since he joined the league as a second-round draft pick in 2012. In the four seasons since, he has 31 passes defensed, third-most among all NFL linebackers in that span.
Most Passes Defensed, Linebacker, 2012-15
- Karlos Dansby
- Luke Kuechly
- Lavonte David
- Daryl Smith
- Connor Barwin
- D'Qwell Jackson
7t. DeAndre Levy
7t. Alec Ogletree
7t. Paul Posluszny
7t. Perry Riley
*David also notched atackle for lossagainst the Bears, giving him nine on the season. That's another calling card in David's game. He needs one more to hit double digits in that category for the fourth time in as many NFL seasons. If he gets that, David would also join Arizona's Tyrann Mathieu asthe only players in the NFL this season with at least 10 passes defensed *and at least 10 tackles for loss**. Mathieu has broken up 17 passes and recorded 11 tackles for loss.
David ranks high on the list of tackles for loss leaders since he entered the NFL, among all defenders, not just linebackers.
** Prior to the Cincinnati-Denver Monday Night Football game.
Put those two categories together and you come up with a very short list of some of the most impactful defenders in the NFL. There are only four players who have at least 30 passes defensed *and at least 30 tackles for loss over the last four seasons combined.*
30+ Passes Defensed and 30+ Tackles for Loss, NFL, 2012-15
In Week 13, David sealed a win over Atlanta with an interception on Matt Ryan's last pass of the game. It was David's third interception in 2015 and the ninth of his career. Incredibly, however, that stands as the only takeaway by the Buccaneers' defense in the last five games combined.
After recording at least one takeaway in 17 consecutive games dating back to the 2014 season (which was the NFL's longest active streak at the time), the Buccaneers' defense has put up four games in five weeks in which it did not snare an interception or recover a fumble. Not coincidentally, the Buccaneers lost all four of those games, including the last three by one score or less. Over the last 10 seasons, Tampa Bay has played 33 games in which it has not produced a takeaway and is 3-30 in those contests.
The Buccaneers have currently played three straight games without producing a turnover. That's just the second time in team history they've gone at least three straight outings without a takeaway. The last time it happened was more than three decades ago in 1984: at New Orleans on Sept. 9, vs. Detroit on Sept. 16 and at N.Y. Giants on Sept. 23. That team did win the middle contest against Detroit.
DT Gerald McCoy recorded the Buccaneers' lone sack of Cutler in the second quarter, dropping the Bears QB at Tampa Bay's eight on a third-and-goal play to force a field goal attempt. That gave McCoy 8.5 sacks on the season and put him in position to potentially hit double digits in sacks for the first time in his career. The last Buccaneer to reach that plateau was Simeon Rice, with 14.0 in 2005.
Thanks to that sack of Cutler, McCoy remains tied for the sack lead among NFL defensive tackles over the last four seasons. McCoy has also been to each of the last four Pro Bowls, not surprisingly.
2012-15 NFL Sack Leaders, Defensive Tackles
1t. Gerald McCoy
1t. Geno Atkins
3. Ndamukong Suh
4. Jurrell Casey
5. Marcell Dareus
This is not the first time that McCoy has been close to that double-digit sack achievement; he now has at least 8.5 sacks in each of the last three seasons. With just one week to play, McCoy is one of only three players in the NFL who have had at least 8.5 sacks in each of the last three seasons. The others are Houston's J.J. Watt (of course) and Washington's Ryan Kerrigan. In the chart below, we've included four other players who might conceivably join that list before the season is over.
8.5 or More Sacks, Each of Last Three Seasons
(Plus Others With a Chance to Do So)