The Tampa Bay Buccaneers used their first two picks in the 2019 NFL Draft on a pair of players they hope will become long-term cornerstones on their defense, nabbing LSU linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall pick and Central Michigan cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting at number 39. The early returns are promising.
The Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) released their annual NFL All-Rookie Team on Tuesday and both White and Murphy-Bunting earned spots on the 28-man squad. White was one of the three linebackers selected, along with Pittsburgh's Devin Bush and San Francisco's Dre Greenlaw. Murphy-Bunting was one of the two cornerbacks selected, joining New Orleans' Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
White and Murphy-Bunting are the first Buccaneers to be named to the most prominent All-Rookie team since Vernon Hargreaves in 2016. White is the first Bucs linebacker to earn that honor since Kwon Alexander in 2015. The last time Tampa Bay had two defenders make the same all-rookie team was in 2012, when safety Mark Barron and linebacker Lavonte David were named to the squad.
Tampa Bay was one of eight teams to have multiple players named to the 2019 All-Rookie Team, joining Cleveland, Denver, Green Bay, Kansas City, Jacksonville, New Orleans and San Francisco. The 49ers, who placed defensive lineman Nick Bosa and linebacker Dre Greenlaw on the squad, were the only other team to have two players on the all-rookie defense.
Despite a knee injury that cost him three games and all but six snaps in a fourth contest, White finished his rookie campaign with 91 tackles, four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, five quarterback hits, one interception, three passes defensed, three forced fumbles and four fumble recoveries, two of which he returned for touchdowns. After returning from his injury in Week Six, White recorded 83 tackles in the remainder of the season, the most among all NFL rookies in that span.
White was the only 2019 NFL rookie to record an interception and also have multiple sacks, multiple forced fumbles and multiple fumble recoveries. His four fumble recoveries tied for the most by a rookie and his two fumble-return touchdowns were the most by an NFL rookie since at least 1970. White's 91-yard score in the Bucs' Week 17 finale against Atlanta was the longest fumble return in franchise history.
Murphy-Bunting began playing regularly in the fifth week of the season, first taking over as the slot corner and later joining Carlton Davis as a starter on the outside, though he would still move inside in nickel packages. The rapidly-improving rookie would finish his debut season with 43 tackles, one tackle for loss, one sack, three interceptions, eight passes defensed and a forced fumble. His three interceptions led the Buccaneers' defense and tied for the NFL lead among rookies with Kansas City safety Juan Thornhill.
Murphy-Bunting gained 88 yards on his three interception returns, much of it coming on a game-sealing 70-yard pick-six in Detroit in Week 15. His eight pass break-ups tied for the fifth-most among NFL rookies in 2019.