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Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Bucs’ David turning up defensive heat

TAMPA — In training camp, it’s all about the improved Bucs secondary, at least on paper, though even paper beats some of what we saw last season. Or that talk is about the Bucs pass rush, if there will be one or not.
Then there are the linebackers.
Then there is Lavonte David.
He came off the field after a broiling Tuesday morning practice, the hottest practice yet, according to Bucs chief meteorologist Greg Schiano.
Listen to David:
“Today was a steppingstone day. Even with the heat, we were able to push it.”
There’s a leader in there, a strong, silent type.
David pushed and pushed last season. He had much on his plate as a rookie. He made the calls on the field. Yet, he was in on 139 tackles and ranked second in the NFL in solo tackles with 112. In consecutive weeks in November, wins at Oakland and against San Diego, David had 27 solo tackles. He was Brooks-like, Derrick variety.
But there were painful lessons, too: those David bad reads late in some close losses, the panicked — and wrong, wrong — defensive calls, like that blitz in the loss to the Redskins that allowed Robert Griffin III to run from here to Plant City. Against the pass last season, David sometimes got lost, like a lot of other Bucs.
A lot was expected from David as a rookie, at a position Bucs fans remember as the domain of future Hall of Famer Brooks. Brooks is on record as saying the kid was ahead of where No. 55 was as a rookie.
Back to No. 54 ...
“It’s a lot different,” David said. “I have one year under my belt on this defense. I’m learning more about it, not only my position, but others guys’ positions as well.”
He knows he had a lot to learn on the fly last season, and it didn’t always fly.
“Not getting calls to everybody, not being all locked in, worrying about what everyone else is doing instead of doing my job,” David said. “That’s one thing I want to work on, get the calls out quicker and make sure everybody knows what to do.”
Bucs linebacker Dekoda Watson downplayed David’s rookie missteps.
“That’s going to be expected,” Watson said. “I don’t think any one player had a perfect game. Whether you’re talking about Lavonte or Ray Lewis, people are going to make mistakes. At the same time, how are you going to bounce back, learn from those mistakes?”
And there’s that year under David’s belt.
“I think it helps a lot,” Schiano said. “At this time last year, he’s still learning the calls and he’s a communicator; he makes the defensive calls. Now, that’s like second nature to him. Now he understands the defense and he makes the adjustments. He and Mason (Foster) both do.”
And David and third-year middle linebacker Foster have had a year together.
“There’s a chemistry there,” Schiano said. “Those two guys talk ball, they love ball, and they fit the kind of DNA that we’re looking for. They’re good, they’re young and they love football. That’s three good things to be.”
The talk is about the pass rushers. Or corners and safeties. There’s a lot of noise.
At linebacker, Lavonte David loves the silence.
“I’m assuming that’s a good thing, that they know we’re locked and ready,” he said.
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