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Bucs’ Devin White: ‘I have to be more disciplined’

The linebacker again led the team in tackles but didn’t come close to matching the production he had during the Super Bowl run.
Bucs inside linebacker Devin White (45) celebrates as nose tackle Steve McLendon (96) intercepts New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during a game in November at Raymond James Stadium.
Bucs inside linebacker Devin White (45) celebrates as nose tackle Steve McLendon (96) intercepts New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) during a game in November at Raymond James Stadium. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 29|Updated Jan. 29

TAMPA — Devin White was named to the Pro Bowl and expected to play in the game next week in Las Vegas as a replacement for the Seahawks’ injured Bobby Wagner.

The Bucs inside linebacker probably got the award a year later than he deserved it, which is often the case.

The fact of the matter is, White didn’t come close to living up to the expectations he set during the Bucs’ Super Bowl championship run.

He still led the team in tackles (128, compared to 140 in 2020) but was out of position for too many of them this season. He also saw his sack numbers fall from nine to 3.5. Part of that was a function of having to drop into coverage to help an ailing secondary.

But overall, White played too much on instinct and guessed wrong as often as he did right. It also didn’t help that inside linebacker Lavonte David missed six games due to injury and wasn’t there to clean up behind White’s overzealousness.

White, 23, blames his lack of production on being overly aggressive in some situations. Two years ago, it served him well at times. That was not the case this past season.

“I think the biggest thing for me is to be more disciplined,” White said. “When I evaluate myself, I think it’s a great thing but it’s a hurtful thing. I’m overly aggressive, because I have the speed to make up for plays. And I’ve got the IQ to make other plays. I think they don’t go hand-in-hand sometimes. Sometimes, I can do a little too much.”

“I think the number one thing is a lot of film study. A lot of zoning in on what I have to do and just being a little more patient. You look at it one year, it works. The things that I was doing, it works. Then you look at it another year and it works, but then it doesn’t work. And then it works, but then it doesn’t work. So I think it’s just being a little more disciplined.”

Winning the Super Bowl, riding his horse around Raymond James Stadium, getting endorsements, completing a new stable — it can make for a busy offseason. Habits can slip, hubris can grow.

So how does White get back to the form of his Super Bowl season?

He needs to recapture his playmaking ability. Stay in better shape. Immerse himself in the process of getting better.

“As far as football, I think God gave me all the tools I need to be a great player,” White said. “All I have to do is keep sharpening those tools. … I’m not going to let that affect my up-tempo style of playing, but I’ll do it the right way.

“I’ll do a lot more film study and make sure I know when to trigger, when to do this, when to take my shot in the run game. To do a lot of different things.”

All-in?

If you want to know why the Rams are playing in the NFC Championship Game, look no further than the in-season additions of former Broncos pass rusher Von Miller and wide receiver Odell Beckham, Jr.

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Tom Brady was pressured 17 times in the Bucs’ division-round loss, the most this season. Miller finished with a team-high nine and a sack.

Los Angeles traded second- and third-round picks in the 2022 draft for Miller. The Rams decided they were all-in for the playoff run.

Beckham was on the market, but Bucs coach Bruce Arians swatted away that trial balloon even though receiver Antonio Brown was out at the time with an ankle injury and Chris Godwin was not practicing due to a foot injury. “We’ve already got AB,” Arians said. “We don’t need OBJ. Too many letters.”

Hindsight is 20/20, but Godwin later sustained a season-ending knee injury, Brown was released and outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul played with a torn rotator cuff.

You wonder what might have happened had the Bucs gone all-in again.

Brutal schedule

The Bucs next season will face eight teams that made the playoffs in 2021.

The Cardinals, Cowboys, Chiefs, Bengals, 49ers and Rams will be some big battles, as will the Ravens, who narrowly missed the postseason.

Throw in the Packers if Aaron Rodgers returns. The Steelers also made the playoffs but lost quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to retirement.

But the potentially weak NFC South should provide some relief. Saints head coach Sean Payton retired. The Panthers are a mess, and Arthur Smith’s Falcons may be another year or two away.

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