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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Lavonte David's coverage skills to be tested against Patriots' tight ends



lavonte.jpgThe Bucs have to be pleased with the way rookie weak-side linebacker Lavonte David has seamlessly joined the starting lineup and become a contributor.

Through two preseason games, the Bucs feel rather good about the decision to draft him in the second round out of Nebraska.

But tonight’s game against the Patriots presents a unique test for David. With New England’s savvy and heavy use of tight ends, David could be asked to take on Aaron Hernandez and/or Rob Gronkowski in pass coverage.

The Bucs sometimes include David in their nickel package, which they use on passing downs, meaning it’s likely David will be dropping into coverage at times. And, at some of those times, he’s likely to get matched up with this dangerous pair of tight ends.

There’s also a bigger picture here. It’s not just about tonight, not when you consider the proliferation of pass-catching tight ends around the league. Just look at what the Bucs face in their own division, with Jimmy Graham in New Orleans and Tony Gonzalez in Atlanta. David needs to be ready for those matchups when they come, and this game could be a preview.

Rookie safety Mark Barron and safety Ronde Barber – something of a tight end specialist – might get isolated on the tight ends at times, too.
But David, at least in the nickel package, will be in the thick of things, lining up near the line of scrimmage. When the Bucs drafted David, among the things they coveted was his coverage skills.

And tonight, look for those to be put to the test against New England.

[Last modified: Friday, August 24, 2012 9:13am]


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