TAMPA — LB Lavonte David finally made the Pro Bowl in 2015. Then came a new system under defensive coordinator Mike Smith last season, and for whatever reason, his game and his numbers fell off.
He went from leading the Bucs in tackles four years in a row to finishing a distant second to MLB Kwon Alexander, going from 147 tackles to 87.
But coach Dirk Koetter says all that has changed during the offseason and training camp.
The guy who's quietly having a tremendous camp is Lavonte David," Koetter said Tuesday. "You know Lavonte didn't have his best year he's ever had last year. He is really having a good camp right now. I think the fans will really see it when we start playing."
There was speculation that David may have been playing through a leg or ankle injury. He made more splash plays the second half of the season, including recording four of his five sacks in the final five games.
"He does do a good job. He's a lot better blitzer than he gets credit for," Koetter said.
Koetter can't explain why David had any falloff in '16, but he's glad the old No. 54 is back.
"You guys have had plenty of speculation on that," Koetter said. "I'm not sure why but you know, to my eyes, I'm seeing the guy who made the Pro Bowl before that."
Colorado QB Sefo Liufau has taken nine snaps this preseason. They all came in the first game, when Ryan Griffin suffered a shoulder injury and the club didn't want to expose backup Ryan Fitzpatrick.
All that will change in Thursday's preseason finale against Washington as Liufau is expected to see the majority of plays, although Fitzpatrick may start the game.
"It's very valuable," Liufau said. "I think anytime you get an opportunity to go out there and play an extensive amount of plays, it gives you the opportunity to go out there and show the talent you have and maybe 10 plays or 40 plays or however many plays it is, you just want to go out there and make the most of it.
"When you have a dream, you always want to go out there and make the most of it. Just really looking forward to Thursday and being able to have fun and do your job."
Liufau, 22, an undrafted free agent, is unlikely to make the Bucs' 53-man roster but would be eligible for the practice squad. With Griffin expected to be placed on injured reserve — and possibly recalled after six weeks — it's possible the Bucs will go with just Winston and Fitzpatrick.
Liufau is hoping to put a good performance on tape. In the first game against the Bengals, he went 4-of-5 passing for 31 yards. But before he can complete any more passes, his biggest job will be getting the Bucs in and out of the right plays and protection.
"I think the biggest thing is the whole process of everything that happens before the snap," Luifau said. "Once the snap happens, it's all just football. But being able to get the guys in the right spot, and being able to get the protection or the run play all going in the right direction, that's the biggest thing they've told me to work on so I've been trying to do that a lot so when it comes to Thursday it's really smooth and the offense runs really well.
"If Tampa Bay isn't home for me or some other guys here, there's 31 other teams you have an opportunity. And if you're unfortunate in all 32 aspects, life goes on."
Four starters still out
The Bucs held four starters from practice on Tuesday: Alexander (undisclosed), Kevin Pamphile (undisclosed) Adam Humphries (hip) Devante Bond (knee) and Demar Dotson, left (groin).
Returning to practice were Gerald McCoy, Will Gholston, Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Brent Grimes, Caleb Benenoch and Josh Robinson.
Super Bowl bid
Three months after being conditionally awarded the rights to host Super Bowl LV in January 2021, Tampa's host committee formally submitted its bid as required. Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, said the host committee officially sent the bid to the NFL on Friday. The bid required formalization of logistical details like hotel agreements, coordinating venues for ancillary events and other planning aspects.
Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report.