After the Thursday night game against the Carolina Panthers, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers realized Devin White is a star. White left the game early with an MCL sprain. Although his injury is day-to-day, White’s impact on the Buccaneers was apparent.
White is projected to have 64 total tackles as a middle linebacker this season. According to last season’s stats, White would have had the 31st most tackles for a linebacker, top 12% for leading tacklers for linebackers.
With two games down, White has shown the Buccaneers he was worth the fifth overall pick. White’s sideline-to-sideline speed and capability to shed blocks makes him a dangerous threat on every play.
In this article, White will prove his quick run reads, reliable pass reads, and downhill speed.
White and the Buccaneers have a -37.9% rush defense DVOA according to Football Outsiders. With Football Outsiders, the more positive the score, the better the offense is. Since White runs the middle of the field, he has led the Buccaneers to the eighth-best run defense.
White usually lines up in the A-gap or B-gap. He can travel to the sideline and shut down sweeps or stretch plays.
In this clip, White starts in the A-gap for Tampa Bay’s 3-4 defense. The Panthers try motioning their receiver to shift the linebackers. Also, with Christian McCaffrey‘s counter run, the receiver motioning makes it look like he will block play side.
With all this going on, White sticks to his key reads, the offensive line, and McCaffrey. With the left tackle and guard pulling to the right, White begins shuffling and reading McCaffrey. White stays lateral so he can keep the inside leverage against McCaffrey.
The inside leverage forces McCaffrey to continue bouncing outside until his lanes disappear. White crashes down and finishes the play with a minimal gain.
White starts lined up outside the right tackle. White delays a blitz to the outside and taps his teammate on the outside hip. The tap lets his teammate know that he will be attacking the outside, so his teammate should crash inside.
The delay blitz forces the guard and tackle to have to reach block further down the field. This causes the linebackers to fill the lanes before the linemen create the contact and block them.
Although White is blocked, his speed and leverage shut down the running lane and limit the gain.
White’s run game is developing but shows many upsides.
Coming off the MCL sprain will slow White down for a few weeks. Once he is back to full strength, White’s quick change of direction and pace will help the Buccaneers tremendously.
White lines up in a “0” technique or right over the center. The Buccaneers man-align, so White lines up over San Francisco 49ers’ running back Matt Breida. White drops into a hook curl zone and watches the quarterback’s eyes.
With a halfback screen to Breida, White comes downhill full speed. Within seconds, White begins to slow down and track Breida’s hips for the wrap-up tackle.
In the final clip, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in a Cover 4 zone coverage. All three linemen and the right outside linebacker rush, leaving three linebackers and four defensive backs. The defensive backs played a deep quarter while the outside linebackers had to cover the flats.
This left White to cover the middle of the field by himself. White plays a great cautious approach as he sticks with the tight end at first. The tight end was running a deep dig while the receiver ran a curl. White’s cautious approach denied the quarterback from throwing the dig and having to check down to the curl route.
White was able to come downhill and make the tackle once the quarterback released the pass.
As we see, the MCL sprain was a twist or extension of the knee muscle that was not an everyday movement. A sudden change of direction and shifting his weight within milliseconds to make that reach affected the MCL.
Although doctors say it is a day-to-day sprain, do not expect White to be back to his full strength until another week at least.
White does show his speed and tackling ability will be a handful for offenses for years.
Overall, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should not be worried about the injury because White will be a franchise player for this squad.
Nick Zeller-Singh is a writer for the Pro Football Network covering the PFN Film Room. You can follow him on Twitter @zickster21.