TAMPA — It has been said many times that timing is everything, and Tampa Bay Buccaneers WLB Lavonte David’s timing on Sunday was nothing short of impeccable.
On the first day of fan balloting for the 2014 Pro Bowl, David turned in a Pro Bowl-caliber performance during a 31-23 loss to the Falcons, recording a season-high 10 tackles, a season-high three tackles for loss and a pass breakup.
It was just another outstanding outing in what has become a seemingly endless string of them for David, the team’s 2012 second-round draft pick whose teammates think he is putting together a Pro Bowl-worthy season.
“Lavonte has always played at a Pro Bowl level,’’ MLB Mason Foster said. “You look at the tape and he’s just running people down all the time. He’s always making big plays for us, which why I love to watch him play.’’
David ranks second in the league with nine tackles for loss and third with 6.5 run stuffs, which are run plays stopped for a loss.
He also ranks first among all outside linebackers in what ProFootballFocus calls pass-rush productivity, which is its combination of sacks (4.0), quarterback hits (2) and quarterback hurries (10).
“He’s a player who is always around the ball,’’ said Carolina LB Luke Kuechly, the 2012 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. “I’ve watched him a few times and he’s always making a lot of plays.’’
David, who leads Tampa Bay in pass breakups with five and ranks second in tackles with 47, makes so many plays the Bucs have become accustomed to seeing him flash on game days.
“Yeah, we kind of expect that out of him,’’ defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan said. “He’s just so productive and he also does a lot of things for us that you probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate from a (play-)call standpoint and getting guys lined up and making checks at the line of scrimmage. He’s doing that kind of stuff, too, in addition to his sheer tackle production.’’
The challenges of playing a Thursday night game after playing a Sunday afternoon game are many, but most Bucs players seem to think there are more benefits than drawbacks.
“Well, to begin with, we don’t have to practice (as) hard (as we normally would), so that’s a plus,” DE Adrian Clayborn said. “Not only that, but I got to sleep in an extra hour today, so I don’t mind it.”
For DT Gerald McCoy, the next game can’t come too soon.
“I hate waiting a week to play another game,’’ McCoy said. “And to lose the way we did in Atlanta, or lose the way we have lost in the past, it (stinks) to sit and wait.”
Bucs coach Greg Schiano, whose job it is to oversee the game plan, doesn’t mind the wait.
“My biggest worry is for the players,’’ Schiano said. “This is just such a physical game that it can be tough on them that way. But everybody does it, so it’s fair and whoever adapts best to it has an advantage.’’
Rookie CB Johnthan Banks has definitely benefitted from having four-time Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis as a teammate. There is, however, another side that is not so beneficial.
“It’s kind of a double whammy,’’ Schiano said. “Being a rookie and being opposite Darrelle Revis you’re just naturally going to get balls thrown your way.’’
Opponents have targeted Banks in recent games. He gave up a few big plays, but Schiano thinks Banks is weathering the storm.
“He’s had a couple of plays against him that would shake a lesser player’s confidence, but Johnthan’s is not shaken,’’ Schiano said. “I believe he’ll come back and play great this week and I believe he’s going to be a really good corner in this league.”