On the field, Devin White has been a bit of a polarizing presence since the Buccaneers made him a top 5 pick in 2019.
The splash plays have come in spades the last few years, as White has 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 6 fumble recoveries, 20 tackles for loss, and two touchdowns in the regular season since entering the league.
In the 2020 postseason alone, White accounted for 2 interceptions and 2 fumble recoveries — including game-clinching picks against the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round and the Kansas City Chiefs in the Super Bowl.
These big results, paired with his high-energy demeanor, have made him a favorite amongst fellow players and fans, and they’ve earned him high praise in preseason lists.
While there is no denying his influence in big moments, more analytical approaches find White to be little unreliable on a play-by-play basis, particularly in coverage. Pro Football Focus in particular has not loved him, grading him at 43.4 in 2020 and 43.2 this year.
He’s been fairly quiet this year when it comes to impact plays, recording just one fumble recovery and missing a few interceptions to go along with zero sacks. He does have 8 quarterback hits on similar pass rushing snaps compared to last year, so he’s still causing problems in the backfield.
The Bucs could use a “breakout” game this week from him against their division rival Saints, and it seems like as good a time as any given his game-breaking performance against them the last time they met.
If nothing else, White’s elite range and aggressiveness are needed to deal with Alvin Kamara. The multipurpose weapon has basically been the only reliable player on offense for the Saints. Kamara is their leading receiver with 25 receptions for 241 yards and four touchdowns. He has also logged 419 yards and one touchdown on 114 carries.
It’s likely no coincidence that Tampa has dealt with Kamara much better since White joined the team.
With Bucs at Saints on Sunday, a reminder of how much better Tampa Bay's defense has handled Alvin Kamara since the arrival of Devin White in 2019.— Greg Auman (@gregauman) October 27, 2021
2017-18: 127 yards from scrimmage, 1.75 TDs per game
2019-20: 89 yards from scrimmage, 0.6 TDs per game
As has been customary the past few matchups, Kamara will be White’s primary assignment. In four games against New Orleans over his first two years, White recorded no fewer than 11 tackles. In the playoffs, his interception came when he stepped in front of a pass intended for Kamara.
Neutralizing Kamara will massively affect Jameis Winston’s ability to inflict damage on his former team. In terms of actual receivers, Marquez Callway is their leading pass-catcher...he has 16 catches for 254 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Deonte Harris, who has burned Tampa some in the past but is dealing with an injury this week, is the only other player on the team with more than 200 receiving yards (12 catches, 236 yards, 2 scores).
These aren’t the dominating Saints of Dree Brees’s hayday. It’s a vulnerable offense that hasn’t performed particularly well since ambushing the Green Bay Packers during Week 1. It’s been efficient but hardly explosive, and limiting Kamara only puts more pressure on Winston.
As we all know better than anyone, a pressured Jameis equals a mistaken-prone Jameis. White can also put literal pressure on him with some strong pass rushes and limiting what Winston can do with his legs.
For White, it’s time to saddle up and help his team secure a key division victory before heading into the bye week.