If you missed the indispensable players on offense, click here.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were once known as one of the best defensive teams in the league for close to a decade a while ago.
Nowadays, they’re known as one of the worst.
But there seems to be a new dawn ahead with the hiring of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. He was named as the inaugural AP Assistant Coach of the Year in 2014, so one would think he knows what he is doing.
Coaches can’t make it work without the players though, in case you didn’t know. Bowles will certainly have his hands full trying to turn things around, while also assessing and evaluating each player in order to determine their best abilities.
But just like the offense, there are certain players this defense can’t live without in 2019.
May I present to you the most indispensable Bucs on defense.
3. LB Devin White
It’s very hard for me to include a player that has never played a down in the NFL on this list, but White is not your typical rookie.
He has a rare combination of smarts, speed, strength, and agility for the middle linebacker position. On top of that, his work ethic is one of the best, which usually comes with a top-5 draft pick.
But where White stands out is the fact that he will be the leader of this defense and he’ll be responsible for making calls on the field in 2019. He will be responsible for relaying the play call from Bowles and the subsequent action of getting everyone into their proper alignment(s).
All of these factors make White nearly irreplaceable if he goes down. Sure, Lavonte David would likely take over the play calling duties, but Tampa Bay would be left with major hole next to David on the second level.
You’re likely looking at a rotation of Kevin Minter and Deone Buccanon at inside linebacker to fill the void if White were to bite the dust for the season. While those two aren’t bad options, one of the trickle down effects would be the fact that Buccanon’s versatility would be limited due to his new role, which could hamper the defense in certain situations.
Even though we don’t really know what White can do just yet, I think it’s safe to say we don’t want to find out how this defense will perform without him.
2. DL Vita Vea
Vea definitely went through some growing pains during his rookie season, but it looked like he began to figure things out toward season’s end.
A calf injury caused him to sit out all of training camp and miss the first three games of the season, which limited to him to 13 games in 2018. During his first six games, he played 50.5% of defensive snaps and racked up one sack and three total tackles.
But over the last six games, Vea was on the field for over 65% of the time and was able to amass two sacks, 25 combined tackles, and three quarterback hits.
While he is capable of pushing the pocket and getting to the quarterback, most of Vea’s impact won’t come in the form of stats and numbers. Even though he won’t be featured in a two-gapping role, he will certainly free up his teammates around him to make plays of their own.
Lavonte David, White, Carl Nassib, and others will be able to take advantage of Vea’s abillity to draw double teams and take up space. Without Vea in the mix, they would have a lot more difficulty getting to the necessary spots on the field.
He will be the anchor of this defense and how he performs will predicate much of the defense’s effectiveness.
And like the other indispensable players - and this is pretty much the situation for all positions on the team - there isn’t much depth behind Vea. Beau Allen is more effective as a rotational player and I’m pretty sure the team doesn’t want to have to rely on seventh-round rookie Terry Beckner Jr. at the nose.
Plus, the flashes that Vea showed toward the end of the year were something the Bucs haven’t had - outside of Gerald McCoy - in a long time: a disruptive force in the middle that must be accounted for.
He should thrive in Bowles’ 3-4 and one has to think the Bucs’ defense won’t thrive without him.
1. LB Lavonte David
Once McCoy was officially released, it became clear that this was David’s defense.
And it’s not just because he is entering his eighth season with the team. It’s because he is the best player on the defense.
David has been nothing but a stud since he was drafted in the second round back in 2012. He’s missed just seven games throughout his career and dipped below 100 combined tackles on the season just once.
The Bucs will need him more than ever in 2019 after the aforementioned departure of McCoy and the transition to a 3-4 defense, which is basically a foreign language for a team that has been primarily a 4-3 base for the past 25 years.
Tampa Bay has already taken hits at the linebacker position and the season hasn’t even began yet. Kendell Beckwith’s season is already over and no one really has any definitive information as to when Jason Pierre-Paul will return from his injury. No one knows how effective he’ll be after his return, either.
All of this forms a nightmarish set of circumstances to where the Bucs’ defense would take a drastic nosedive if David were to ever miss any significant time. It would also be very similar to the loss of Kwon Alexander in the fact that an injury to David would be an emotional blow to the team.
A world without David on the field is a world both the Bucs and their fans don’t want to know.
Which defensive player is most indispensable?
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