A Year For The Real Lavonte David

May 12th, 2017

Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira Kaufman, and the regions most beloved and esteemed columnist, has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. His columns pop here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire every Tuesday and Thursday.


Give the man credit for being honest.

Lavonte David says he wants no part of Hard Knocks. Maybe that’s because he’s already had his fair share.

In some ways, it’s been a bit of a bumpy ride for the former Nebraska standout since the Bucs traded up to grab David in the second round of the 2012 draft. Tampa Bay promptly lost 45 of its next 64 games before last year’s breakthrough.

Nobody is mentioning David’s name in the same sentence as Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks these days. No shame there.

Those comparisons were never fair. Brooks is arguably the best player in franchise history, a once-in-a-generation linebacker who rolled into Canton unopposed.

So if David isn’t the second coming of No. 55, who is he? A good player who wants to be special.

By his own admission, David did not play up to his standards for most of last season, especially early. There was a Week 2 matchup at Arizona when he failed to show up on the postgame stat sheet in a 40-7 debacle.

Zeroes across the board … as if he had never made the trip. Unthinkable.

Surge Was Real

But as the year progressed, David closed with a rush. Four of his five overall sacks came in the final three weeks as first-year defensive coordinator Mike Smith discovered what Buc fans already knew … David can be very effective hounding quarterbacks off that right edge.

“We want to see growth in all areas of the game,” Smith said this week. “Lavonte, I think, at the end of the year really came on as a pass rusher. He became more effective as a pass rusher and we were able to design some things to allow him to get in a charge and rush the passer.”

In 2013, only his second pro season, David emerged as a stat monster. He finished with 7 sacks, 5 interceptions and 2 forced fumbles, and when yet another disappointing year ended with a coaching change, the Bucs had themselves a young, All-Pro outside linebacker.

It was quite a comeback for David, who experienced his low point as a professional in the 2013 season opener. Buc fans can still see David applying a late hit out of bounds against Jets quarterback Geno Smith in the final seconds, with Tampa Bay clinging to a 17-15 lead.

That brain fart and subsequent 15-yard penalty set up a game-winning 48-yard field goal by Nick Folk, who will have every chance to beat out Roberto Aguayo and win Tampa Bay’s kicking job this fall.

The shocking loss in the Meadowlands set the tone for a 4-12 season that cost Greg Schiano his job. Credit David for overcoming that gaffe. By the summer of 2015, the Bucs offered him a five-year contract extension worth $51.5 million, with half the money guaranteed.

I asked David whether he holds himself to the same standards as Gerald McCoy, a five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle who says he needs to raise his game to the next level.

“As athletes, as competitors, you always want to be great,” David said. “You always want to be great at your position. Last year I didn’t have my best year, so I just want to be able to get better and get back to my old self.”

To be fair, David played through injuries last year. He hurt his shoulder early in the season and his hamstring was tender during the December playoff push, but David wasn’t going to tarnish his reputation for durability.

In five years, David has failed to post only twice.

Day 1 Focus

He finished the season strong and he’s well aware that Tampa Bay’s 9-7 record has the stick carriers up in arms.

“Each year, expectations get higher and higher,” David said. “From last year, the first winning season since I’ve been here, this upcoming season has to go even better. The main goal is for us to win this division and get to the big dance and make the Super Bowl. I’m sure everybody in the locker room has that same expectation and we’re ready to take on the challenge.”

David grew up in Miami and when the regular-season schedule was announced last month, he couldn’t believe the Week 1 matchup … on the road against the Dolphins.

“Not only is that my hometown, but I’ve never played against Miami before back at home, so it’s going to be amazing,” David said. “I’ve already had people calling me about tickets. It’s going to be electrifying, it’s going to be fun. I’m looking forward to it. I know my family is looking forward to it. Also, going down there and setting the tone on where we want to be as a football team is going to be really cool.”

And if David levels Ryan Tannehill with some hard knocks along the way, even better.

24 Responses to “A Year For The Real Lavonte David”

  1. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    The guy was a monster when Schiano was his coach along with 93, then they lost their edge and fire in their bellies, hopefully smitty gets it out of LVD because he can be a huge difference maker on the defense.

  2. WhatdaBUCisthis Says:

    So… Amazing…
    And I been waiting…
    @Luther Vandross
    ALL GAS. No brakes

  3. Steven007 Says:

    LVD and GMC are near mirror images at their respective positions. Good, sometimes great players who are not what their team comps are (Brooks and Sapp). Both nice guys and neither is a natural leader. But both are good players. And as Jason Licht recently said, “we can’t have too many good football players”. We are now collecting alpha dogs (JW, Kwon, Baker) to even everything out. You don’t build a team with a bunch of alpha a-holes or you end up being the Bengals.

  4. Bucsfanman Says:

    We need ALL 53 to bring it this year. I’m glad he recognizes that he had an awful year. Reintroduce yourself Mr. David!

  5. Blake_bucsfan Says:

    Some of your best work yet Irv.

  6. MJB Says:

    For what it’s worth LVDs mom passed away last year as well…Never k ow how that can affect the psyche of a player. Still excited he’s on our team! Our 2 dynamic LBs are right up there as one of the best tandems in the NFL.

  7. Tampa Tony Says:

    Why did it take Smith so long to figure this out when he saw David first hand his rookie year? He saw him twice!!!

    Call me pessimistic but I don’t buy the Mike Smith hype as he’s got a lot to prove after 5 good performances and 11 mostly awful ones

  8. Joehelldeloxley Says:

    LVD will have a wonderful season and will be our second outside linebacker (with Noah Spence) when we will be playing some 3-4 defence.
    hell will rain with opposing QBs.
    Look at what he did in the final push last year and you will have an idea of what is coming this year!

  9. Pickgrin Says:

    This would be a perfect year for LD54 to have a career season with impact plays galore. He is capable of being a difference maker game in and game out. But we haven’t seen enough big plays from the WLB spot the last couple of years considering his capabilities.

    Hopefully LaVonte’s drive and hunger are off the charts this year and Mike Smith finds more ways to continually put #54 in position to make plays.

  10. Stpetebucsfan Says:

    This would be a perfect year for LD54 to have a career season with impact plays galore.

    Pickgrin this “could” happen for LVD and others. I’m thinking if GMC and LVD both have “career” years this will be a really stout defense…but then what if some others toss in career years…for somebody like Grimes who already has a great career that would make a big impact.

    Kwon…Noah…all these guys could very easily blow up. And I’m the offensive lover here….I leave the Defense up to the rest of you guys like D.R. or Lord C.

    But while I do LOVE offense…and I believe we might have assembled a truly exciting offense…perhaps most entertaining in the league…I’m wondering now if our defense doesn’t blow up even more. These guys have a “chance” to be really really good.

  11. Pickgrin Says:

    “These guys have a “chance” to be really really good.”

    I agree St Pete. On paper we now have the (starting) talent to be a top 10 defense and a top 5 offense.

    The continuity on Defense should pay big dividends towards our capability to have a stout defense to start the year with. in 2016, The Bucs D improved by leaps and bounds when comparing say week 3 (Rams) to week 11 (KC). We didn’t lose any good players on D and added talent to boot (Baker, J. Evans, Beckwith). Hopefully this equates to a fast start on Defense and sustained good, solid play throughout the year.

    If we can just manage that – then our high powered offense combined with solid or better play from Defense and Special Teams will lead to quite a few Wins in 2017 – preferably 11 or more to guarantee a playoff spot.

    How healthy this team stays – will likely determine how far this team can go in 2017. We are legit SB contenders (not favorites but contenders) on paper – but our depth is lacking. If Winston or D. Smith or Evans or McCoy or Kwon or LD or Grimes goes down and is out for any length of time – then we just lost our edge and would not be the same team. None of those positions have back ups that could play anywhere close to the level of the starter.

  12. Pickgrin Says:

    Meant to add Ayers/Spence to that list.

  13. The Buc Realist Says:

    Man, This reminds me of when a lot of “fans” were turning on LVD54 last year in November!!!!! Luckily their was one fan claiming that LVD54 was hurt!!!!!!! And that ultimate fan and defender of the Bucs was The Buc Prophet!!!!!!!!!!!!

    The Buc Realist Says:
    November 11th, 2016 at 7:53 am

    I listened to Coach Smitty press conference and he was asked about LVD54, and he said while he is not playing well, that he is “nick’d up” !!!! Which is unusual because the coaching staff hardly ever mentions injuries!!!!

    not an excuse, because we have to many players that are always hurt, an the “if” and “when” healthy they are a good player is wearing thin in these parts. But was something to keep note of!!!!!!!


  14. Pickgrin Says:

    Yea – you’re a real Nostradomus there Rhealist.

    Is your self image really so badly damaged that you have to come on here every day puffing your feathers out so as to maintain some sense of dignity and self importance in real life?

    We get it. You think you are awesome – the gold standard of football knowledge and prophesy for blog commenters. So at least that makes 1 person who sees you as such….

  15. Buccfan37 Says:

    Quit picking on The Buc Prophet, lord knows we need him more than he needs us.

  16. Pickgrin Says:

    That’s funny Buccfan. And what’s even funnier is that he will read that and nod his head….

  17. Destinjohnny Says:

    The $$$ changed him
    He is only getting half his talent out of his ability

  18. LargoBuc Says:

    With Grimes and VH3 and Evans over top, I think Mike Smith finally trusts his secondary enough to start blitzing LVD on a consistent basis. Wuth LVD off the edge and Spence potentially building upon the flashes he showed last year, and Mccoy flying off the snap from the three tech and Baker using his size to command double teams, I think we may finally have a pass rush!

  19. Coach Says:

    I don’t care what the anybody says, Geno Smith’s sorry behind was not out of bounds when Lavonte applied the shove. It was not a “late hit”. Geno flopped. The Jets won that game in the style of Drew Brees and the Saints = Victims to victory.

  20. Bucsfanman Says:

    @Largo- Good point. With the injuries included, he probably didn’t trust the D to blitz often. With another year and some added talent, I think we will see a little more from this group.

  21. Rod Munch Says:

    I’m not sure where the Mike Smith is a genius stuff comes from – this was a defense that 10th in the NFL under Lovie and dropped to 23rd in the NFL under Smith. The defense played well down the strech but it literally took Mike Smith 3/4ths of the season to figure out that David is the best pass rusher on the team and to actually let him loose. In fairness David started out the year kind of slow, that happens when you change the defense every other year and have to learn a new scheme over and over and over again – but he back to his old great self after the first few games. Anyways I hope Mike Smith actually uses all of David’s skills – he’s less Brooks and more like a LB version of Ronde, meaning he can blitz and cover – let him move around and make plays, make offenses never really know what he is going to do.

  22. Locked In Says:

    He’ll also archive it away for future reference

  23. Lamarcus Says:

    Lvd is the man

  24. HAMMER Says:

    I watched this young man since he was 14 and no him and family members he had lost his mother when he was just about give her the world she passed at 56 that
    was said but I no she proud of him it’s wasn’t easy