Most people are very familiar with the first-round draft picks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers—Mark Barron and Doug Martin.
Barron’s arrival has been hyped to no end, and his veteran/rookie bond with fellow safety Ronde Barber is the talk of the town. Martin is entrenched with LeGarrette Blount in a heated position battle that could, quite possibly, favor the rookie.
However, it may be second-round pick Lavonte David that’s set to make the most noise early on in the 2012 season.
David has turned heads in camp thus far, and according to the Tampa Bay Times, he is becoming a fixture at weakside linebacker. He was even listed as Tampa's first-string Will linebacker on the initial depth chart published Monday.
Head coach Greg Schiano warned the media and the Bucs fanbase not to read too much into the first depth chart of the season, but David’s presence with the first team isn’t a bone of contention.
David has handled just about everything thrown at him in camp, even adding some versatility and working at middle linebacker when asked. Defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said he’s given David more reps than every other linebacker, and he's answered the call.
"He's doing good," Sheridan said. "Like all the rookies, at some point in camp, it starts to mount up mentally. But he's plowing through it. The nice thing is he's getting a ton of reps with the ones (starters) and the twos, so he's getting coached off film because he's in there a lot. I'm sure guys wish they were getting the kind of reps we're affording him."
"What he brings is he's real instinctive, so even if he technically screws up, he's got great recovery."
After trading down in the 2012 draft and still nabbing Barron, the Buccaneers moved up twice in a row—first to grab Martin in the first round and then to get David at pick No. 68 in the second.
David has fantastic football intelligence and a sideline-to-sideline motor that could allow the rookie to reach the 100-tackle mark in his first season.
His instincts and abilities have not only impressed the team, but they have drawn comparisons to a former Bucs linebacker great: Derrick Brooks.
"When you first look at them, you appreciate the athleticism," Brooks said Monday to the Tampa Bay Times in regard to David and second-year linebacker Mason Foster. "They do have a lot of the characteristics that we had when we were young players."
Being compared to Brooks—even drawing praise from the former star himself—is a much-needed boost to a linebacker corps that struggled mightily last season.
Foster ranked next-to-last among middle linebackers with 10 missed tackles last season, while Quincy Black was listed in the bottom five of outside linebackers with eight. The entire unit missed 26 tackles as ball-carriers ran roughshod through the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense in 2011.
An extra year of experience for Foster and Black and the addition of David could help remedy the linebacker woes in Tampa Bay. A new coaching staff and philosophy based on fundamentals will also go a long way.
Schiano recently called David “our kind of guy” and said of the rookie, “he’s prepared, he’s unselfish.”
That’s high praise from a call-it-as-he-sees-it head coach who isn’t in the habit of sugarcoating anything. It’s also the kinds sentiment you want to hear from a head coach about a rookie that could be this year’s most monumental addition to the defense.
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