Bucs’ linebackers want to be among league’s elite

by Gary Shelton on July 30, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Alexander wants to be recognized as an elite unit./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Alexander (58) wants the linebackers  to be recognized as an elite unit./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Batman had Robin. Starsky had Hutch. Thelma had Louise.

The best performers, it seems, come in pairs. For every force, there is a counter-force. For every right fist, there is a left one. There is thunder, and there is lightning.

It is that way with a lot of positions in the NFL. Wide receiver. Cornerback. Offensive tackles.

And linebackers.

When it comes to linebacker, frankly, one is not enough. A team has to be good here, and it has to be good there. Oh, you can get by with one great one (Derrick Brooks, for example) if you have a very good one next to him (Shelton Quarles)
Bonnie had Clyde. Abbott had Costello. Butch had Sundance.

Yeah. Like that.

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David thinks the .defense will start fast this year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

David thinks the defense will start fast this year./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

And so we flash back to last month, when former Patriot linebacker Willie McGinist was naming his top linebacker units in the NFL. Denver, he said. And Kansas City and Carolina. And San Francisco and Oakland.

No Bucs.

Then McGinnist named his units that just missed making the list. Atlanta and Minnesota and Pittsburgh. Houston and Arizona.

No Bucs.

“I don’t really care about (the lack of attention),” David said. “All we can do right now is just focus on our play. We feel like we (David and Kwon Alexander) are the best duo in the league. We talk about it every day.

“We try to be the best that we can be every time, so it doesn’t really matter what everybody else thinks. As long as we go out there and do our jobs the right way and we put (our stamp) on the game as much as we can.”

It seems to bother Alexander a little more. Including in his attempt for attention is red-tipped hair and a huge back tattoo.

“I went to the Nike Open (a Nike-sponsored event hosting the nation’s top high school recruits) and I saw (McGinist) out there and he said something to me,” Alexander said. “I was like, ‘Yeah man, we need our respect though. You aren’t giving us any respect.’

“But you know, he was a great guy. He understood what I was saying. He was just saying that different groups. That was for like all linebackers: Mike, Sam and the Will, so that was for all of them. But I talked to him about it, you know, put our name out there, so I got out of there fine with it.”

Still, if the Bucs are going to be good defensively, it figures that Alexander and David have to be sharp. Probably rookie Kendall Beckwith, too. After all, linebacker is the backbone of a team's defense.

“I feel like when we start winning, we will all get our respect, you know what I mean?” Alexander said. “That’s the plan, you know, to start winning and get some games under our belt, and I’ll come out there eventually. I’m not rushing it. It’s going to come.”

There are reasons the Bucs might be underrated. First of all, who watches the Bucs? They've been a non-playoff team for a decade. Appreciation cames with achievement.

Secondly, there is style. These days, a lot of outsiders look to sack totals to determine linebacking and little else. Fewer appreciate the chase-and-tackle linebackers.

The Bucs' backers played well in the second half of last season. That means the team needs a quicker start to make the post-season.

“It’s encouraging, growing our confidence early,” David said. “That’s what we need: to start the season off fast, finishing training camp on a good note and then going to the preseason. You know, start the season off right the right way. Not trying to be down like how we were last year with our head in our hands. We’re trying to start fast and the sky is the limit for us.

“We are a lot further than we were at this point last year. It’s amazing the progress that we’ve had from last year to now. You can tell guys are communicating and getting compliments from the coaches and saying, “You guys have done a great job, we want you to keep it up.” Last year the way the defense rolled, everybody got to talk and basically over-communicating. So that’s what we try to do. Everybody from the D-Line, from the front end to the back end, everybody is talking to the boss. That’s the way we’re trying to get this thing rolling.”

Alexander was looking forward to playing again with Beckwith, a former teammate at LSU.

“He’s a dog,” Alexander said. “He is going to be ready, especially when we put the pads on. He is going to be hitting some people. He [is going to] be ready. He is very excited and very eager to get back out there and he learned the plays pretty fast too, so I just can’t wait to see how he is going to progress.”

For the Bucs, playing better defense means a better pass rush. It means that Vernon Hargreaves progresses at corner. It means better safety play.

And it means linebackers.

On defense, it usually does.

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