There’s a lot of pressure when you’re the fifth overall pick. You expect touchdowns and tackles and takeaways. And not only do you expect them eventually, you expect them quickly.
When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted LSU linebacker Devin White No. 5 overall in 2019, expectations were high. He missed some time during his rookie year to a knee injury, but once that knee fully healed and White was able to get a good amount of experience under his belt, that coveted talent began to shine.
White finished the 2019 season with 91 total tackles, four forced fumbles, four tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, and one interception. He was only able to play in 13 of the team’s 16 games in 2019 due to that knee injury, but he started in every game he played in.
The Buccaneers’ defense has been on another level this season. Right now, they are far and away the top-rated defense in terms of DVOA (Defensive-adjusted Value Over Average). It’s a better way to measure just how good a defense is, rather than just citing stats. They’re the top defense versus the run and they’re the No. 12 defense versus the pass. They’re also blitzing and bringing added pressure the third most of any team in the NFL.
White is a key component of that, and a few weeks ago he asked his defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to “unleash” him in what he can do for the defense when it comes to attacking the pocket. They did just that against the Las Vegas Raiders and the results were three sacks in a single game.
There wasn’t anything fancy to White’s first sack of the game. In fact, it was hardly a sack, as it was a tackle just barely behind the line of scrimmage. It was more of White playing contain on Derek Carr scrambling out of the pocket, but he did it well.
White is a fast football player, and when he’s able to keep things in front of him and really play downhill, that’s the kind of closing speed and success you can have. Even when he’s not in a blitz package, letting him keep his eyes on the quarterback in zone can yield these kinds of results.
For White’s second sack of the game, he was aligned at an edge-rushing position. I want to focus on the position more than the result itself because it appeared that running back Josh Jacobs was hurt on the play due to getting stepped on by his own offensive lineman, and that was the reason why it was so easy for White to get by him and into the backfield. But White being lined up as a 2-point stance (just means standing up) outside linebacker on the line of scrimmage does still fill that “unleash me” plan that White envisioned. He wants Bowles to be as creative as possible with how White can be used, and we saw it on that design.
In White’s final sack of the game, he erased all hope the Raiders had left on this 4th-and-1 attempt where he chased down Carr like a bat out of hell before Carr could even reach the line of scrimmage, blasting him into the bench and into next week.
None of these sacks included a nasty pass-rush move or even a flashy A-gap blitz. But they did show how productive White can be when the defensive line keeps him clean. That’s a big part of why White is having a lot of success this season, and I expect that to continue.
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