The Tampa Bay Buccaneers haven’t made the NFC Playoffs since 2007. They were tied with the Detroit Lions at 9-7 last season , but finished below them because of their record in common games. Kendell Beckwith will be a crucial player that pushes the Buccaneers over the top. The rookie third round draft pick is expected to be in the starting lineup according to ESPN.
Kendell Beckwith Determines Playoff Picture for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Linebacker Depth is Lean
In 2016, the three primary linebackers were Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, and Daryl Smith. Smith was brought in for one season and put up respectable numbers as the third linebacker with 35 tackles, one interception, and one fumble recovery in 12 starts and 16 games played.
Smith had proven to be a quality linebacker for nine seasons with the Jacksonville Jaguars and three seasons with the Baltimore Ravens, but it was evident that at age 34, he probably wasn’t going to get any better. He became an unrestricted free agent and the team decided not to re-sign him.
The Buccaneers also suffered a loss in regards to depth when they designated Jude Adjei-Barimah for injured reserve in the preseason. Adjei-Barimah started in one game while appearing in 10 games and producing 22 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. He played in 385 snaps on defense and special teams combined.
Cameron Lynch and Adarius Glanton remain all-purpose backup linebackers. They drafted outside linebacker Devante Bond in the sixth round from Oklahoma in the 2016. Beckwith provides the Buccaneers an alternative should David or Alexander suffer an injury, but not if Beckwith himself gets injured.
Linebackers Have Star Power Already
If all three are healthy, the strength of the Buccaneers is their linebackers. David is a hulking, durable outside linebacker who has been a First Team All-Pro and last season, produced five interceptions and returned an interception for a touchdown. Alexander led the NFL with 108 solo tackles last season and also returned an interception for a touchdown. Both David and Alexander should benefit Beckwith and vice versa.
This won’t be the first time that Beckwith will be playing in the same front seven as Alexander. They played together in Beckwith’s first two seasons at LSU. The Tigers saw their record go from 10-3 in 2013 to 8-5 in 2014, but it wasn’t because of their defense. The defense went from 21st in points allowed in ’13 to fifth in ’14. Alexander led that team with 90 tackles; Beckwith was second on the team with 77. That defense also featured burgeoning NFL stars in Danielle Hunter, Deion Jones and Jamal Adams.
Can Beckwith produce like he did at LSU? The Buccaneers believe he can by starting him at outside linebacker. He was an inside linebacker in college, which should theoretically help the Buccaneers defend better against running backs. According to the schedule, that’s exactly what will be the greatest challenge. You can view Tampa Bay’s easiest games and most difficult games. The first game against the Chicago Bears presents that exact scenario.
The Bears now have two weapons at running back in Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen. Howard had 13 carries, 52 rushing yards, and a rushing touchdown last week against the Atlanta Falcons. Cohen was even more impressive with 113 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown.
Alexander must bottle up the elusive Howard (if he plays), who ran 252 times for 1,313 yards on 5.2 yards per carry last season. Howard finished second in rushing yards and yards per attempt. David and Beckwith also need to keep Howard and Cohen from breaking plays open in the passing game. Cohen is the weapon Beckwith really has to contain. In his own NFL debut, Cohen had eight receptions for 47 receiving yards and a touchdown catch to go along with five rushes for 66 yards, one which went for a long of 46 yards.
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