Padding the Stats: Brady's Arrival Puts Deserved Spotlight on Lavonte David
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Padding the Stats: Brady’s Arrival Puts Deserved Spotlight on Lavonte David

April 29, 2020

On Saturday afternoon, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Khalil Davis with the 15th pick of the sixth round of the NFL Draft, getting the Huskers back on the board after they were shut out in last year’s draft.

If Davis makes the 53-man roster once football returns, it will give Tampa three Huskers on the team in addition to Boys Town graduate Shaquil Barrett, making the Bucs an easy pick for any football fans in Nebraska looking for an extra team to root for in the pros.

Ndamukong Suh re-upped with Tampa for his second straight one-year deal and will be tasked with showing Davis how to wreak havoc in the trenches. 

Lavonte David, on the other hand, has been a Buc for quite some time now. Unfortunately, he’s toiled away in relative obscurity since he got drafted in the second round of the 2012 draft despite being one of the best linebackers in the NFL during that time.

David was the best linebacker in the Big Ten and one of the best in the country his senior year at Nebraska, yet he slipped to the second round in part because teams thought he was too small to play on the second level and thought he might need to move to safety. David proved them wrong, however, and has continued to do so every time he steps on the field.

He’s started every one of his 121 career games in eight seasons and has racked up 1,008 tackles, 116 tackles for loss, 22.5 sacks, 21 forced fumbles, 13 fumble recoveries, 11 sacks and three defensive touchdowns, showing the same kind of unique playmaking ability he put on full display in his two seasons as a Husker. 

He’s one of just two players in NFL history (Chicago Bears great Brian Urlacher being the other) who recorded over 800 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 interceptions in his first seven seasons and he’s already broken the franchise record for fumble recoveries.

Yet David has just one first-team All-Pro, one second-team All-Pro and one Pro-Bowl selection to show for it.

For the most part, unless Jameis Winston was throwing another pick-six, the Buccaneers haven’t gotten much national run during David’s tenure. They have just one winning record (9-7 in 2006) and have finished at the bottom of the NFC South six times.

That will change in 2020, however. The Bucs made the splash move of the offseason by signing Tom Brady and then trading for WWE wrestler (and future hall of fame tight end) Rob Gronkowski, and they’ll have a spotlight on them all season long, no matter how it works out.

I’ve never been the biggest Tom Brady fan, but the man has failed to win double-digit games just one time in his career (excluding the season he missed all but part of one game with a torn ACL), and in that year he won nine. It will be interesting to see what Brady can do separated from Bill Belichick and outside New England. He’ll turn 43 before the season starts and is coming off a seriously down season, but he was also pretty bereft of weapons that could get separation. With Chris Godwin and Mike Evans at wideout and a stable of quality tight ends, that won’t be the case in Tampa Bay.

Whether or not Tampa has enough outside the passing game to win at the rate Brady is used to is to be determined. The Bucs’ 2020 draft haul had a decisively Big Ten flavor. In addition to Davis, Tampa Bay took Iowa offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs in the first round, playmaking Minnesota safety Antoine Winfield Sr. in the second round, Vanderbilt (and former Illinois) running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the third round and Minnesota wide receiver Tyler Johnson in the fifth. 

Tampa Bay went 7-9 with Winston tossing 30 interceptions in 2019. With Brady’s arrival and the upgrades they’ve made so far this offseason, the Buccaneers will have a chance to be a winning team next season, and to the winners go the spoils (the spoils being postseason honors, in this case). 

Perhaps if the Bucks do live up to expectations, David will finally start to get the kind of recognition and and admiration he deserves based on the way he’s played since he first set foot on an NFL field. Either way, he should have more eyes on him than ever before in 2020. I know I’ll be watching.

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