Bucs LB White continues to improve from mid-season
Sample sizes are funny. The smaller they are, the more pronounced the conclusions we can draw from them. But boy, small samples can fool us all. myself included. Take my evaluations this year of Bucs linebacker Devin White, for example. After a really good training camp and a solid first two games of the season I wrote this doozy of a piece.
Fast forward six weeks and I was… uh… out on white. After his strong opening act of the season, White’s performance had declined quite a bit. He posted some of the worst Pro Football Focus numbers of his career in games against Green Bay and Kansas City. Those games were followed by mediocre to poor showings against Atlanta, Pittsburgh and Carolina. Then that fateful Baltimore game happened. And it wasn’t just White’s performance on the pitch that came under fire. Comments made after the Falcons and Ravens games also questioned White’s leadership.
Something interesting has happened since week 8 with White. The ostentation of his game and his post-game interactions have been replaced by a quiet, understated confidence. White’s performance on the field was consistent and controlled. This has enabled him to score 39 combined tackles with just 11.4% missed tackles.
This missed tackle percentage is more than a full point below his career percentage and nearly two points behind that point in the season. His PFF numbers have improved and stabilized, with his three highest game numbers in the past six weeks.
White’s improvements on the field can be attributed to more discipline in maintaining his gap assignments, more control in his pursuit of the ball, and an overall confidence in his teammates to do their jobs. This allows White to carry out his own assignments, rather than freelancing and leaving large parts of a game uncovered for the opponent to take advantage of.
And White has managed to achieve this without sacrificing what everyone agrees is great about him. As of week 9, White has passed 58 times. In that time, he has generated a quarterback pressure 11 times. That 19% pressure rate is extremely effective. And that pressure included splash plays, including five QB rushes, three QB hits and three sacks.
The opacity of Bucs ILB White has been improved
But in addition to maintaining his good pass-rushing skills, White shows subtle improvements in other areas of his game. Since week 9, he’s been targeted slightly less (10.5% of cover shots versus 11.1% for the first eight games). And opposing offenses find less success on those targets. In Week 8, White had allowed 221 yards on 30 targets in coverage. That equates to 7.4 meters per target.
Over the past six games, that production has dropped to 114 yards over 18 targets (6.3 average). During that span, the Bucs-run defense also gave up 28.4 yards per game. Overall, the game benefits from a more controlled and disciplined version of White’s defense.
This is a version of White who could be worthy of a contract extension after his fifth-year team option expires in 2023. No one has ever doubted White’s talent. And if he can use it in a useful way, as he has over an extended period of time over the past six weeks, there is hope that he can really rise to the upper echelons of linebackers in the NFL. Or maybe again this is just too small a sample size to make a sweeping judgment. Time will tell.
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