Monday, November 20, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

A better way to judge Bucs LBs Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander

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Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander have built reputations as tackling machines.

Alexander's 108 tackles last season led the NFL. David's 67 ranked 44th, but he finished second in 2014 and 11th in 2015.

As visible as David and Alexander are, we know that racking up a lot of tackles isn't necessarily a good thing. Tackles are often a measure of opportunity, not skill. If a defense regularly fails to get off the field, it's going to record an inflated number of tackles. Case in point: The Buccaneers allowed 5.8 yards per play last season, the ninth-worst mark.

Because raw tackle statistics lack that context, Football Outsiders has sought to better quantify defenders' impact. The advanced statistics site tallies the number of plays in which a defender tackles an offensive player for a loss, helps force a turnover or is responsible for a stop on third or fourth down.

Once again, David was among the leaders in defeats. He recorded 29 last season, which was good enough for a second-place tie with the Raiders' Khalil Mack and the Broncos' Von Miller. Bills linebacker Preston Brown's 31 defeats led the league. Before you take that to mean Brown was a top-notch defender, it's important to note that two-thirds of those defeats came while defending the run. Only three defenses saw as many rushing attempts as Buffalo. (The Bucs play the Bills on Oct. 22.)

While David's place on the leaderboard is nothing new (first in 2013, second in 2014 and second in 2015), Alexander's is. He posted 28 defeats last season, one fewer than David. Both linebackers earned most of their defeats while in pass coverage. David had 19 pass defeats, and Alexander had 16.

Among defensive linemen, Gerald McCoy (17 defeats) and free-agent signee Chris Baker (12 defeats) finished in the top 20. Cornerback Brent Grimes recorded 17 — 16 pass, one rush — which was tied for eighth-most at his position.

No Tampa Bay edge rusher or safety finished with enough defeats to qualify as a leader.

For overall and position-by-position leaderboards, visit Football Outsiders here.

Contact Thomas Bassinger at tbassinger@tampabay.com. Follow @tometrics.

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Published: 11/20/17