It’s a new-look defense for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. At its core is what could be a prolific linebacker group. Speed, athleticism and an attitude are the defining factors of the players set to go into camp and battle out for a spot on the 53 man roster. This will be a group to watch as their use and ability to pick up the playbook will make or break the Buccaneers defense this year.
Returning in 2019 Lavonte David will be front and center as the leader of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ linebacker corps. His solid gameplay, sure tackling and football acumen will propel this group forward. The other players in the group will look to him for leadership and feed off his energy. There is no doubt he will make the cut. For the 2019 season, he could rake in triple-digit tackles again and will certainly play a pivotal role in the resurrection of this defense under Todd Bowles.
The Free Agent Aquisition
Deone Buccannon enters camp as an under the radar signing. To fans outside the Buccaneers fan base, his signing is almost insignificant. The linebacker safety hybrid will most certainly be a solid rotational player whos contributions will be frequent and impactful. He’s being reunited with Coach Bowles who got him started in Arizona in 2014 and if he can return to his 2015 form he could bring starter caliber play when David or Devin White need a rest. I would expect to see him play both outside and inside linebacker while filling at safety as well. He will make the roster without a problem.
The Rookie Addition
On April 25th, 2019 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Linebacker Devin White with the fifth overall selection. The second his name was announced the Buccaneers linebacker corps instantly got better without even playing a single snap. The football I.Q. of White, his tenacity and level of play should make him an instant starter. You’ll hear his name very often during camp pressers. His attitude is contagious and he will elevate the play of those around him.
Fighting for Spots
Devante Bond, Kevin Minter, Corey Nelson, and Jack Cichy round out those fighting for spots. Both Bond and Cichy are coming off injuries from last year that landed them on injured reserve. Bond was even waived at one point but resigned with the team in March of 2019. Minter played sparingly last year with only three percent of the defensive snaps. This is a far cry from the 93% he played in 2016 for the Cardinals. Another player with a productive 2016 was Nelson but he still has a long way to go to make this team. All four players will be playing for a spot on the 53 man roster and I would expect Jason Licht and Bruce Arians to bring in another linebacker as the roster continues to evolve until the season begins.
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The Free Agent Aquisition
Just like Buccannon, Shaquil Barrett comes in as an unheralded free agent. Subsequently, he may be an extremely valuable addition. Hidden behind Von Miller, Barrett stands a good chance to break out. He gets his shot to show his versatility and we will get to see if he can be a solid starter. During training camp, he will be evaluated by the team’s staff and I am certain he will be an impactful starter for the 2019 season.
The Question Mark
Playing only five percent of the defensive snaps last year some questioned why Noah Spence is still on this roster. We will sure find out during training camp. If Bowles can get in his head and get the best out of him Spence can have an impact. How much is the question? Can he return to his rookie season form when he had five and a half sacks with 53% of the defensive snaps under his belt? Spence will be for sure one of the most-watched players in camp. If he fails again his career may be over.
Fighting for Spots
The list for outside linebacker has some relative unknowns. Dare Odeyingbo, Emmanual Smith, David Kenney, Farrington Huguenin, and Kahzin Daniels round out a group that has little experience and may struggle to find a role on this team. Some will compete on the defensive line some will be gunning for outside linebacker. There is always an outside chance there is a diamond in the rough so we will need to keep an eye on this group. Two players that are familiar with one Buccaneer Place are Pat O’Conner and Demone Harris. Neither has performed well enough to ever crack the starting line up and are long shots for the team. It should be noted that many of these players have been listed before as defensive ends but with the switch to a new defensive scheme, they may have to fight to be outside linebackers.
The Rookie Addition, Maybe
Anthony Nelson was drafted this year in the fourth round. He originally played defensive end at Iowa but ultimately has some athletic ability that could have him making the team due to his versatility. That versatility may have him scoop up some snaps at outside linebacker. Watch to see where he lines up during camp. On a side note, NFL.com player profile lists Carl Nassib as his player comparison.
The training camp will also give us some insight on player moves. Jason Pierre-Paul may be making a switch to outside linebacker. So may Carl Nassib. Training camp is going to shed light on the situation and the look Todd Bowles envisions.
The long list of names and hopefuls in the linebacker spots will be exciting to see unfold. Thankfully the Buccaneers have a large enough coaching crew to get a good feel for what players they will want on this team. Training camp starts soon and that means we are close to football again. I can’t wait!