What should Buccaneers fans expect from inside linebacker Devin White in his fourth NFL season? A recent interview of coach Todd Bowles with Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com sheds some light on the team’s assessment and expectations.
“I think he had a good year [in 2021],” Bowles said of White. “I don’t think he had the Super Bowl year, but he still had a very good year. I think we had a lot of injuries that ravaged [the defense], that we asked him to be more of a vocal leader, as far as pointing and lining people up more than we did making plays to hide some of the weaknesses that we had. He still had a very good year.”
Bowles suggested that White pressed at times in 2021, in order to quiet the doubters.
“He started hearing the noise trying to make a play,” Bowles said, “that’s when he would make a mistake. I think he’s aged and matured a year. He’s come back with a great mental approach to the ballgame. He’s gotten a lot better at almost everything that was almost a minus for him last year.”
Regardless, the Bucs view him as a key part of the defense.
“He is our tone-setter,” Bowles said. “He’s one of those guys that you have to let be a football player. I’m not saying he’s Ray Lewis or Mike Singletary, but he’s one of those guys that’s very confident in his ability. And he’s very good at what he does and you have to let him play. And I think we’re getting back to that more — letting him play but understanding where he has to be at certain times.”
Bowles believes White’s “best years are ahead of him,” and that it’s not realistic to expect an inside linebacker to have nine sacks per season. That for a player like White it’s more about what he does to elevate those around him.
“We’ve tweaked some things for him that fit his game a lot better,” Bowles said. “You know, we have to be smarter as coaches getting him in better positions, too. But . . . he’s the guy that we turn to. And he’s a natural born leader. It’s not for show. I mean, he does it in practice every day. So on Sunday, it’s just a microcosm of what we see every day during the week.”
The Bucs will need it this year. Regardless of where the bar is for White, it’s very high for the team. White’s performance and leadership will go a long way toward helping the team do what it’s trying to do.