TAMPA – From a standard statistical standpoint at least, Buccaneers linebacker Lavonte David appeared to turn in what was easily the worst season of his career last year.
David, who has traditionally been among the league’s leaders in tackles, recorded a career-low 87 combined takedowns a year ago, when he often looked as if he was lost in new coordinator Mike Smith’s defense.
Well, the folks at Football Outsiders dug a little deeper, not only into David’s season but that of all NFL defenders, and their research suggests David was actually just as good last year as he always has.
Through a unique advanced statistic they call defensive “defeats” Football Outsiders determined that David was in fact the second-most effective defender in the league last year.
David finished the year tied for that spot behind Bills linebacker Preston Brown (31) with 29 “defeats,’’ which is actually a measure of the number of impact plays each defender makes.
For example, Football Outsiders credits a player with a “defeat’’ any time he makes a tackle or tips a pass that leads to a change of possession on third or fourth down.
A “defeat’’ is also awarded any time a defender makes a play, including a sack, that results in a loss of yardage or a play, including a tipped pass that leads to an interception, that result in a turnover.
David has traditionally been one of the leaders in this category. In the previous four seasons he’s ranked fifth, first, second and second overall in total defeats, per Football Outsiders.
And thanks to a strong second half, he came to rest at pretty much the same level last year, when he finished the season with five sacks, 17 tackles, four pass breakups and four forced fumbles.
Of course, it wasn’t just David who had a remarkable season in that regard. As you might expect of the player whom the Bucs defense now revolves around, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander was almost as impactful as David was.
Alexander finished the year tied for fifth overall in the metric with 16 pass defeats (three less than David) and 12 run defeats (two more than David) for a total of 28.
Those numbers put David and Alexander in the same company as Khalil Mack (29), Von Miller (29) and Sean Lee (28) and ahead of the likes of Vic Beasley (24) Aaron Donald (24) and Ndamukong Suh (24).
Two other Bucs who made their way into the upper echelon, at least among their peers at their position, were Gerald McCoy (17 defeats, tied for sixth among D-linemen) and Brent Grimes (17, tied for eighth among cornerbacks).