As they say with defense, ‘it starts up front.’ That’s exactly what linebacker Lavonte David is hoping will be the case with Tampa Bay’s drastically different defensive line this upcoming season. All the pieces were in one place at the start of mandatory mini-camp on Tuesday and coaches and players got their first look at what the team could look like in the fall.
The last piece to join was defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, acquired via trade from the New York Giants this offseason to help do one thing: rush the passer. Pierre-Paul had been working out at his South Florida home away from OTAs before he made the transition to Tampa. It’s a place Pierre-Paul is familiar with – he’s a USF alum. But before USF? He was at a small community college in the middle of Kansas… with Lavonte David. The two played one year together at Fort Scott Community College and have kept in touch over the years.
“I know what type of teammate [Jason Pierre-Paul] is because I’ve already played on a team with him,” David said. “I know what he’s capable of. I know he’s going to give me 100 percent and he knows I’m going to give him 100 percent. We already have that chemistry already so that’s an awesome thing to have.”
That’s one of the five new defensive players David has chemistry with. It’s during OTAs and mini-camp that he and the rest of the defense will build up more. We know what that many new guys can do to change the line itself, but what about what they can do to help other levels of the defense? David sees the up-front movement as a tremendous opportunity for his linebacker unit.
“They’re going to play a big part in our defense and have pivotal roles in our defense,” David said of the new defensive linemen. “For us as linebackers, we kind of feed off that. You’re only as good as the guys you have around you and I feel like we have great guys around us that will hopefully give us an opportunity to play faster and play better and create more plays that we are capable of making.”
The NFL limits the amount of contact teams are allowed in OTAs and in mini-camp – so no one is hitting each other quite yet. It makes it kind of tough to tell the impact either of the lines can have as far as creating those opportunities David was talking about. But he’s a six-year NFL vet and knows what a good front four can mean for someone in his position.
“For a linebacker period, you have an awesome d-line who’s just up there wreaking havoc and creating opportunities for you to make plays in the backfield and giving you the opportunity to just fly around and play the way that you love,” David said. “I think it’ll be awesome, I’m looking forward to it and so far those guys are coming along well. Through OTAs and mini-camp everybody’s on board and doing what they are supposed to do.”
One thing about David is his affinity for praising the guys around him, even to the point of deflecting praise himself. He assumes the lead-by-example type role and has made it his mission to help those around him.
“Individually, I’m just a low-key guy, I don’t talk much, I don’t say much,” David said. “I do my best to just make sure everybody gets it and understands what’s going on and understands what we want as a unit, understands what we want as a program and understands what we want as an organization.”
“We have a lot of guys who I consider leaders on this football team – guys who all want that ultimate goal and that’s obviously to play in the Super Bowl,” David continued. “We’ve been taking it one day at a time trying to get there and for me, that’s all I’m trying to do. I just want to bring guys along with me, teach them and have them learn, try to get that same mentality as everybody else on this football team.”