The season ends for David — again — after 16 games

by Gary Shelton on December 27, 2019

in general

David still leads the Bucs in tackles./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

The post-season has no use for him. Not the Pro Bowl, which he has made just once. Not the playoffs, where he has yet to appear.

Yet, around here, Lavonte David remains an honored warrior.

The truth is, David may be the most beloved player to be so underappreciated in the history of the franchise. He shows up, and he battles, and his team generally loses.

And the next week, he goes to work again.

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For eight years, and 999 tackles, it has been that way. Odds are, David will lead his team in tackles -- again. He will lead the Bucs' defense. He has lost 77 of 120 games as a pro with not a lot to show for it (besides a paycheck). And still, he plays on. Isn't there something admirable about that?

“He’s one of my favorite players," said defensive coordinator Todd Bowles. "I think he’s a complete football player. He plays the run very well. He plays the pass very well. He can blitz. He can play zone. He can play man. He’s very intelligent – he has a lot of football savvy and he understands the game, and that’s priceless. I think Devin (White) has learned a lot from him in that aspect of the game and the team in general. On defense he’s one of the leaders over there and I can’t say enough about him.”

Remember, David, too, is playing in a new system with new responsibilities.

“That goes to the kind of football player he is – from a mental standpoint he can adapt to every system and I figured that out early on," Bowles said. "That’s a credit to him. He’s had good coaching when he was growing up and college and obviously, before we got here, so a lot of that has to be credited to a lot of people."

The Bucs' defense was superb in the team's earlier 33-18 victory over the Falcons.

“I think they’re playing good football," Bowles said. "They’re running it better. They’re throwing it better. Obviously, they got (Devonta) Freeman and [Austin] Hooper back, but they’re playing good football. Their chemistry is good – (Matt) Ryan is making great decisions, they’re making big plays, they’re grinding it out, and they make you play all over the field. They’re doing a heck of a job.”

Bowles shared his thoughts on several Bucs' players.

On defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul finishing strong: "That’s a credit to him," Bowles said. "He’s an extremely hard worker. He’s a prideful guy and in his mind – and the mind you’ve got to have in football – there’s nothing he can’t accomplish, which is a great thing to do. I think that carries over for a lot of the guys. To see him get three sacks I think he’s just getting started. I think he’s finally healthy. He’s finally got his legs under him and his fundamentals and techniques have gotten cleaned up, so we’re just looking forward to him getting better this last game. ”

On Carlton Davis turning penalties into pass breakups: “I think just film study and understanding how they’re calling the game, and you growing as a player," Bowles said. "I think he’s done a great job growing as a player and understanding the things he can and can’t do to commit those penalties and he did something about them.”

On the upside of OLB Shaquil Barrett: “I mean there’s meat on the bone," Bowles said. "I think he can get better, but that may not equate to sacks. I think he can get better as a football player – sacks come, but I think he has a lot of growth as a player, yes.”

On rookie linebacker Devin White coming into his own: “Like I said, he’s up there," Bowles said. "There’s a lot of rookies who have done what he’s done. He just has to continue to get better, but the fact that he’s getting his hands on balls and being around the ball and making some impact plays can only help us.”

(On if injuries held OLB Carl Nassib back): “It held him back a little bit. It’s part of the game. I think all of us get nicked up during the year; it’s always what you can and can’t play with. Carl’s a trooper and he’s a tough guy. When he came back he does everything for us that we ask him to do as far as the run and the pass, so we’re very happy with him.”

For all the criticism of quarterback Jameis Winston, there have been positives. He will pass 5,000 yards Sunday, and is among the league leaders in touchdown passes.

“That’s crazy," offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said of the 5,000 yard barrier. "I always say anytime you can do things that very few people [have done] in this league – (with) as long as this league has been going on – it speaks for itself. You allow everybody else to judge it, but any time you start speaking, ‘No one else has ever done this. Very few amount of people – six or five people have done this,’ I think that’s a beautiful thing for any player. Any player that has played in this league long enough to have the ability to do that – there are a lot of good football players in this league that never have those type of opportunities or those type of things said about them.” 

Leftwich said Winston's techniques have improved.

“I think across the board," Leftwich said. "I don’t know how [good] he was from the technical standpoint early. You see him getting better and that’s just awareness. When any player has awareness of what to do, how to do it, how am I going to get it done [and what’s] the best way to get it done – you have results. Then you do something wrong and it [doesn’t] happen – you don’t have the results you want. Those are great opportunities for us to learn. We’ve had enough of those opportunities now, so he’s beginning to learn these things on his own. He’s beginning to do things where we don’t have to repeat coaching. He’s getting better across the board. I’ve watched him get better from the beginning of the year to the end of the year."

Winston has improved in deep throws this season, Leftwich said.

"It’s just timing – timing on when to get the ball out to give yourself the best chance on completing the ball," Leftwich said. "Everything in this league has a timing to it [and] has a different point where that guy is going to be most open. From the time we got in here, I’ve always tried to explain that to him – explain when we’ve got to get the ball out, when is the timing [and] why we’re going here as opposed to going there. Once he has an idea and an awareness of that, he’ll hit those balls. Most guys in this league will hit those balls once they have an awareness of what to do. I always have a saying, ‘Every quarterback in the league can hit their first read, no matter who it is.’ We’re all great on that first read. The first read is there, I throw it, he’s clean and I hit him – perfect ball. It’s getting to the third and fourth reads and still being accurate. That comes with awareness. Just being aware – trying to make him aware of why the ball is going there [and] why it should be going up at this time. We’ve seen improvement with that throwing process.”

The Bucs finish their season Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. at Raymond James Stadium.

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