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Anatomy of a Divisional Round Win: Buccaneers need to eliminate Devin White's reverse gear

Touchdown Wire logo Touchdown Wire 1/14/2021 Doug Farrar
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If you want to play linebacker in the modern NFL, you’d better be versatile. The days of the Mike Singletary-style ‘backer who stayed in the middle and just crashed forward to stop the run are over in an era when teams on average play base defense less than 20% of the time, and dime defense more than 20% of the time. Now, the best linebackers can do everything from blowing up run fits to playing the slot credibly to rushing the passer from multiple gaps. Anything less that, and you’re a liability — and that will show up in your snap counts.

That said, there are times when even the best linebackers should have their roles reduced from a variety perspective. Devin White, the second-year star for the Buccaneers, has the most sacks among off-the-ball ‘backers with nine, the second-most total pressures with 31, the fifth-most stops with 56, and the ninth-most tackles with 95.

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(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

That’s the good side. The bad side? Per Pro Football Focus, White has the most targets in coverage among off-ball ‘backers with 98, and he’s allowed the most catches (86) for the most receiving yards (761), the second-most yards after catch (410), the second-most touchdowns allowed (four, tied with several other linebackers), and an opponent passer rating of 112.6. If White has an absolute dominant trait to his game, it’s his knack for creating quarterback pressure. If there’s an obvious liability, it’s White’s ability to hold up in coverage. That may change over time given White’s eagerness to improve, game intelligence, and physical gifts, but we are where we are with this.

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(Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

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