Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Breaking down NFL draft: Linebackers (w/ video)

Whom the Bucs have

Lavonte David, WLB (6-1, 233): Pro Bowl player is under contract long term. Got back to splash plays with interceptions and sacks in 2015.

Kwon Alexander, MLB (6-1, 227): Draft steal in last year's fourth round was immediate starter. Value was most evident in his absence during four-game suspension for violating league's performance-enhancing drug policy.

Daryl Smith, SLB (6-2, 250): Veteran has 120-plus tackles in each of past three years. Will be active as experienced leader despite part-time role on strongside.

Jeremiah George, LB (5-11, 234): Clearwater graduate helped on special teams last year; had a blocked punt. Likely back as backup and special-teams player.

Josh Keyes, LB (6-2, 223): Shined in preseason, missed cut, was brought back. Had four tackles in Week 17. Will battle for special-teams role in second season.

Depth: Other linebackers returning from 2015 who played on special teams include Adarius Glanton and Darius Eubanks. Bucs will likely keep only six linebackers. Battle for backup jobs may come down to who can lead on kick-coverage units and handle multiple positions as a backup.

Top five draft prospects

Myles Jack (above), UCLA (6-1, 245): Versatile and athletic, has also played safety and running back. Knee is concern over reported knee and cartilage problems, but speed can make him an NFL star.

Jaylon Smith, Notre Dame (6-2, 223): Knee injury in bowl game means he likely won't play this year. Talented enough to still be a first-rounder.

Reggie Ragland, Alabama (6-1, 247): Middle linebacker doesn't miss on tackles. Heavy hitter; strong against run. Will improve in pass coverage.

Darron Lee, Ohio State (6-1, 232): Size a concern for some, but showed speed and instincts with Buckeyes. Former high school QB can blitz well.

Su'a Cravens, Southern Cal (6-1, 226): Aggressive converted safety had 15 tackles for loss in 2015. Smallish but quick enough to draw comparisons to Bucs' Lavonte David.

Under the radar

Antwione Williams, Georgia Southern (6-3, 245): Bucs sent LBs coach Mark Duffner to work him out. Has good size. Had four forced fumbles last year and 10½ tackles for loss. Could be smart third-day pick.

Free agency

Bucs let Bruce Carter go in free agency and didn't tender Danny Lansanah, so David is the only linebacker who was on the roster a year ago. Daryl Smith was signed as a veteran presence and "bridge" to mentor what looks to be a rookie strongside linebacker taken in middle rounds.

Best guess

With two young linebackers likely not coming off the field in David and Alexander, how much would the Bucs invest in a third linebacker who would be likely to come off the field in the nickel package? They can upgrade their fourth linebacker and look for a third-day pick, hoping for the same mid-round jackpot they hit last year with Alexander in the fourth round.

Greg Auman, Times staff writer

Comments
Barry Sanders turns 50: Watch some of his 2,195 yards vs. Bucs

Barry Sanders turns 50: Watch some of his 2,195 yards vs. Bucs

Lions legend Barry Sanders turned 50 on Monday, and as a tribute, the NFL posted a 10-minute highlight video of the Hall of Famer's top 50 runs. As any older Bucs fans can attest, many of them came at the expense of Tampa Bay's defense, seen chasing ...
Published: 07/17/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jimbo Fisher discusses Florida State, Jameis Winston

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Jimbo Fisher discusses Florida State, Jameis Winston

Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher was front and center Monday at SEC media days and spoke about leaving Florida State and why Jameis Winston will have no problem moving on from his suspension.Plus, Blake Snell might be the third AL pitcher ...
Published: 07/17/18
Bucs running back Ronald Jones eager to prove himself as rookie

Bucs running back Ronald Jones eager to prove himself as rookie

Bucs rookies report to training camp Monday, in less than a week, but running back Ronald Jones has offered fun insights into his preparation with a 10-minute video interview with his hometown paper back in Texas, the McKinney Courier-Gazette."I defi...
Published: 07/17/18
Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love Jameis…unfortunately he made some bad decisions’

Jimbo Fisher: ‘I love Jameis…unfortunately he made some bad decisions’

ATLANTA — Jimbo Fisher defended every step of the way at Jameis Winston at Florida State, so it shouldn't be a surprise that he continues to back his former quarterback, even though both have moved on.Fisher, now the coach at Texas A&M, sa...
Published: 07/16/18
What DeSean Jackson needs to break a Jerry Rice NFL record

What DeSean Jackson needs to break a Jerry Rice NFL record

We're close enough to the 2018 NFL season that we can start talking about records that could be broken in the normal course of the Bucs' season ahead.DeSean Jackson has a chance to break one of Jerry Rice's career NFL records. No, not the 197 career ...
Published: 07/16/18
Tony Dungy on Jameis Winston: ‘He knows the right things to do’

Tony Dungy on Jameis Winston: ‘He knows the right things to do’

Former Bucs coach and current NFL analyst Tony Dungy said Friday that quarterback Jameis Winston's three-game suspension is disappointing, but he still hopes the 24-year-old can learn from his mistakes moving forward."Obviously, it's disappointing, a...
Published: 07/13/18
Mom appreciates ‘surprising’ Winston interaction with kids after workout

Mom appreciates ‘surprising’ Winston interaction with kids after workout

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston continues to be a complicated study in the off-field behavior of pro athletes, doing things that draw criticism and praise, sometimes even in the same hour.Winston drew criticism from some fans today for posting video ...
Published: 07/13/18
Pro Football Focus: The Earth is a cold, dark place and the Buccaneers are really, really bad

Pro Football Focus: The Earth is a cold, dark place and the Buccaneers are really, really bad

So training camp is less than two weeks away, and you're beginning to feel hopeful. Why not the Buccaneers, right?To which Pro Football Focus might respond, "We'll tell you why not."The analysts at the website are not high on the revamped offensive l...
Published: 07/13/18
Flashback: 1979 Bucs defense had ‘Mount Crushmore’

Flashback: 1979 Bucs defense had ‘Mount Crushmore’

As we roll out our own choices for "Mount Rushmore" honors for Tampa Bay sports teams, one of our readers was reminded of a similar treatment for the Bucs defensive line nearly 40 years ago.Sue Avery of Wesley Chapel e-mailed to share a photo  o...
Published: 07/13/18
Here’s our Mount Rushmore of Bucs

Here’s our Mount Rushmore of Bucs

The selection process for a Mount Rushmore of former Bucs players— part of a project from the Times Sports department that includes an overall Mount Rushmore of Tampa Bay athletes — is first incredibly easy, and then exceedingly diff...
Published: 07/13/18