Best Off-Ball Linebackers

September 1st, 2021

The best.

So it is only the first day of September 2021 and already Joe is getting tired of reading about this new-fangled term “off-ball linebacker.”

How about just linebacker or inside linebacker or outside linebacker? That has worked just fine for decades. No need to sound slick like a baseball stat nerd to make others think you’re some undiscovered Bill Parcells.

And since Joe brought up “nerd,” the name of Mike Clay springs to mind. He’s a spreadsheeter over at BSPN. In breaking down the best position units in the NFL, the best pair of inside linebackers in his mind are Lavonte David and Devin White.

But Clay, like almost all stat geeks do, tries to sound smarter than everybody in the room so he calls the Bucs’ duo “off-ball linebackers.”

(Of course they are off-the-ball! You don’t see them getting down in a four-point stance at the line, do you? Anyone who does that regularly isn’t a linebacker.)

This one was tougher than some others. Several teams have one elite off-ball linebacker, but few have multiple quality options. The Buccaneers get the slight edge over the Vikings, with longtime standout Lavonte David and third-year Devin White operating as every-down players. David has reached 100 tackles in eight of his nine seasons. White made noise with 97 tackles and 9.0 sacks last season, but the 2019 first-round pick remains a work in progress in coverage and against the run. Kevin Minter, Joe Jones and rookies K.J. Britt and Grant Stuard are the depth.

Joe really believes if David puts together yet another strong season, he is Hall of Fame material. He has the same numbers or better than Luke Kuechly and the difference between those two is David has a big fat shiny ring.

If Devin White can continue to play like he did in the postseason last year, he will be an unmatched warrior on defense.

The postseason White had last year may be the best Joe has ever seen from a linebacker, on the ball, off the ball or picking his nose at midfield.

17 Responses to “Best Off-Ball Linebackers”

  1. bucsfaninchina Says:

    mmmm the term has been around a few years, Joes.

    Outside linebackers (Will, SAM) in a 4-3 can be off-ball linebackers as well, so the inside/outside distinction doesn’t quite click. On-ball linebackers (Shaq, Tryon, JPP) sometimes, most of the time do not put hands in the dirt but have a vastly different position to play than LVD or White.

    It don’t bother me, but I can see how it can rile up our, let’s say “more tenured” fans 🙂

  2. SteveK Says:

    Joe really believes that if David puts together yet another strong season, he is Hall of Fame material. He has the same numbers if not better than Luke Kuechly and the difference between those two is David has a big fat shiny ring.

    Ty Joe! Rod Munch, myself and other JBFers have been clamoring for years that David is equal to or greater than Keuchly. Also consider, Keuchly had MVP Cam Newton on his team and David had to stop him. During David’s great run he had to compete against the likes of three mvps- Ryan, Brees and Newton.

    I remember Joe D. going nuts on his predraft HW for Lavonte. Thank you for noticing since before day one that David was a STUD.

    I’m thankful Lavonte has the GOAT leading the helm, and he can ball out for our D. He dominated Kelce in the super bowl and I hope he gets the chance to do it again this year.

  3. Dewey Selmon Says:

    Just like repeat became run it back.

  4. gotbbucs Says:

    In the end, some of David’s numbers won’t be as impressive as they could have been. This is because he is so good in coverage that he hasn’t had the opportunities to blitz more often, even though he is just as effective at blitzing as almost any linebacker in the league. His stats during his seasons with Schiano prove that.
    He’s a Hall of Fame caliber player that’s had the bad luck of being with an unstable organization through his entire career. The lack of Pro Bowls and All Pros because of this will hurt his chances.

  5. TB33 Says:

    Off ball linebacker is more specific. Outside linebacker can have completely different roles in 3-4 vs 4-3. Think the difference of lavonte David as outside linebacker in old 4-3 vs JPP outside linebacker now. Important distinction that is needed IMO.

  6. cover deuce Says:

    It’s just a way to delineate between guys like LVD and like Khalil Mack. It wasn’t even nerds that invented it – GMs and front offices invented it so they could get away with paying Off Ball guys less money.

  7. August 1976 Buc Says:

    Lavonte started with a bang and then Lovie became coach, and it was like “what happened to Lavonte” At the beginning under Schiano LVD had a better start to his career then D Brooks, but then the “Lovie lull” and being on some bad teams will not help him get in the hall. How many years was LVD dissed for the Pro Bowl, way to many. Hope somehow he gets in the HOF, he is, and has been a straight up baller for the Bucs. But with the bias against the Bucs for so many years, it will be a tough road to go. We will see, again I hope so. GO BUCS!!!!

  8. Cobraboy Says:

    “Off-Ball Linebackers?”

    I don’t get that term.

    Seems an ILB/MLB is an “on-ball” linebacker.

  9. DavidBigBucFan99 Says:

    Lavonte David has quietly been a great LB for us, but until Hardy Nickerson makes the Bucs Ring of Honor AND the Hall of Fame he can’t. Though I only watched him play for one season in ’99 he was the outspoken catalyst that changed the culture of the worst team in NFL history. A great story and video about him is on taylorblitztimes (sorry Joes hope you don’t mind me plugging another site here). We now have the reincarnation of Hardy in Devin White. We’re going to ride this Bucs bus 🚌 #5445 or 4554 (however you write it) until the wheels fall off baby!!

  10. PSL Bob Says:

    We’ve got several players on this team that will hopefully retire as Bucs, having been on the team since their rookie years. Lavonte is right at the top of the list. Evans, Godwin, White, Vea and several o-lineman are on my list. It’s hard to stay with just one team for your entire career in today’s NFL, but I hope LVD and the others can do it.

  11. mark2001 Says:

    I guess the team will just have to help cement Levonte’s legacy with another great year and another SB.

  12. SlyPirate Says:

    The Bucs’ DL requires double teams which keeps the offensive line from getting to the second level. This lets the speedy LB roam and create havoc.

    Having success against the Buc’s defense requires 1:1 blocking against Vea.

    Dallas may be able to neutralize White if Biadasz can block Vea 1:1.

  13. Buczilla Says:

    I always thought that off-ball linebacker was used to differentiate outside linebackers like Brooks and Taylor. Brooks dropped into coverage far more often than Taylor and Taylor was used more as a pass rusher than Brooks, but what the hell do I know?

    David is better than Kuechly ever was, period the end. When you have two players with very similar numbers, you have got to look at other things to separate them. Since Kuechly was far less durable than David, the nod must go to David. The mostly ignorant sports media up north won’t see that difference, but that is to be expected. 😛

  14. mark2001 Says:

    Hardy was something special. We were so fortunate to get him in here. Having a guy with his experience and ability to infuse winning attitudes and habits in those young future HOF guys in the making, made all the difference in the world.

  15. Diddykong Says:

    Did he say Devin White isn’t stellar against the run? Has he watched a Bucs game? He’s literally saying White isn’t great against the run or the pass but he’s a great linebacker?!?! What else is there to play against?

  16. Pickgrin Says:

    Didn’t Joe Jones get cut?

  17. mark2001 Says:

    Yeah diddy…pretty bizarre. He is good against the run, and is a great rusher. Going into last year, we kind of questioned his coverage skills. But then he took that personally and played great in coverage. Sounds like the guy is getting his news from over a year ago…and even then, it isn’t very accurate.