Danny Lansanah was perhaps the most unexpected breakout player last year. Having bounced around practice squads for years, Lansanah somehow managed to start 11 games last season, picking up three interceptions and eight passes defensed along with 81 total tackles as a linebacker. Lansanah played everywhere -- filling in for injury-struck Mason Foster in the middle, taking over the strongside role (where he primarily played) and even getting a little weakside playing time when Lavonte David was injured.
Pro Football Focus named him the Bucs' Secret Superstar last week -- the awesome player no one's heard of.
Lansanah wasn't a starter in Week 1, but he was by Week 4. His 27 stops in run defense as a 4-3 outside linebacker helped him to a 10.1 Run Stop Percentage, second on the team among linebackers, and 12th in the league at the position. His 14.5 Tackling Efficiency in the passing game was 11th-best among 4-3 linebackers. Three interceptions (two pick-sixes) and two pass deflections helped Lansanah hold opposing QBs to a 84.4 passer rating, and a +1.5 coverage grade.
Unfortunately for Pro Football Focus, Lansanah's chances of playing time aren't great. Lavonte David's entrenched on the weak side, Bruce Carter has been handed the middle linebacker position and the team is smitten with fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander, who has repeatedly been called the most athletic linebacker on the roster. Lansanah's the odd man out here.
What's more, if Lansanah does manage to hold off Alexander, he'll still 'just' be a strongside linebacker. He likely won't be on the field on third downs, and is likely to play less than 50% of the team's defensive snaps. Lansanah simply won't be a big part of this defense.
That makes his status as a secret superstar fun, but not very useful. Lansanah could certainly get on the field this year -- injuries are a thing, and who knows how quickly Alexander will develop -- but given the signing of Carter and the drafting of Alexander, it's clear that the Bucs don't see him as a long-term starter, just a short-term placeholder at one of the least important positions on defense.