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Buccaneers roster breakdown: Did Tampa Bay improve at linebacker?

NFL: Baltimore Ravens at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going through the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ roster, position by position, to see whether they improved compared to last year. Today: linebacker

2015 roster: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Bruce Carter, Danny Lansanah, Jeremiah George, Darius Eubanks, Adarius Glanton, Josh Keyes.

2016 roster: Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Daryl Smith, Devante Bond, Jeremiah George, Josh Keyes, Cassanova McKinzy, Adarius Glanton

Last year, the Buccaneers had a weird group of linebackers. They signed Bruce Carter to play middle linebacker, only see fourth-round pick Kwon Alexander beat him out in training camp. Starting a rookie at middle linebacker led to some up and down performances, especially early on when Lavonte David tried to cover for him. Lansanah barely featured afterward, while Alexander racked up splash play after splash play — and then he was suspended for the final four games of the season for PEDs. Oops.

The Bucs parted ways with Bruce Carter and Danny Lansanah this offseason, and brought in 34-year old veteran Daryl Smith, who has a history with new defensive coordinator Mike Smith. He seems to like bigger linebackers a little more than Lovie Smith did, but David and Alexander should have few troubles fitting in. In terms of depth, this group is a little worse than last year, given that they cut two veterans and brought in just one.

Does Smith’s veteran savvy compensate for the loss of Carter and Lansanah? I’m inclined to say no — Carter proved to be pretty good depth, though Lansanah didn’t have as many splash plays as he had in previous years. But an improved performance from Alexander and David not needing to cover for his mistakes early in the year will help this group a lot more than a few players will.