TAMPA – Buccaneers linebacker Kendell Beckwith is one of those rare rookies who doesn’t play like a rookie.
“He’s what I call a rookie-non-rookie,’’ veteran defensive tackle Clinton McDonald said. “He’s a rookie but he plays like a veteran.’’
No one can deny Beckwith played like a veteran during the Bucs 29-7 dismantling of the Bears on Sunday.
Beckwith started the game as expected at strongside linebacker but soon moved into the middle after Kwon Alexander left the game early in the second quarter with a sore hamstring.
As the final score suggests, the Bucs barely noticed the difference as Beckwith finished out his NFL debut with five tackles, including two for a loss, and a pass breakup.
Beckwith was particularly sharp in coverage, where was targeted eight times and allowed only four catches for 43 yards, including just 16 yards after the catch, according to Pro Football Focus.
“I can’t say it enough times,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said of the player the Bucs spent their third-round pick on this past spring. “It’s an amazing story the guy is even out there.
“He’s coming off an ACL tear (suffered last November) and so we’re fortunate, and the fact he can play multiple positions is great because he stepped in there today and did a really nice job.’’
Beckwith, an LSU product, has been doing a nice job ever since he first surprised the Bucs by stepping onto the practice field for the first day of training camp back in July.
After missing all the team’s offseason workouts while rehabbing from his season-ending knee injury, Beckwith was ticketed to start camp on the physically unable to perform list. He quickly earned a spot in the starting lineup instead.
It helped that Devante Bond, the first of the Bucs two 2016 sixth-round draft picks, went down with a knee injury, but there’s no doubt Beckwith has earned his playing time.
He ranked third on the team during the preseason with 17 tackles, including four for a loss, and also recorded a couple of sacks while splitting time between the middle and strongside backer spots.
“He’s just one of those guys that, you don’t have to worry about him being a rookie,’’ defensive tackle Gerald McCoy said. “Obviously he’s going to have some rookie moments, but he came from LSU and he kind of reminds me of somebody else who came from LSU.’’
That would be Alexander, who had a non-rookie-like rookie season himself two years ago and is now one of the cornerstone of the Bucs defense
Oh, and by the way, don’t expect that cornerstone to be missing from the lineup when the Bucs return to action against the Vikings next week. Alexander said after the game that he didn’t “tweak or pull’’ his hamstring, adding that it was “only a little sore.’’
No surprise there. After watching Beckwith play, Alexander’s hamstring probably started feeling a lot better.