Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

28 Dec 2012

Enter the House of (Lavonte) David

I keep meaning to write about this in the DVOA commentary one of these weeks, and I kept forgetting, so let's throw this up as something extra for the weekend.

Guess what? While nobody was looking, the Tampa Bay front seven secretly became one-dimensionally awesome.

Let's be clear, the Bucs aren't scaring passers any time soon. They rank 31st in Adjusted Sack Rate, ahead of only Jacksonville. But it has become extremely difficult to run on them. The Bucs go into the last week of the season with 2.92 Adjusted Line Yards allowed per carry. That's the best figure in the NFL by more than half a yard. Unless they give up a lot of runs on Sunday -- against an Atlanta team that doesn't run well and might be resting people, so good luck with that -- the Bucs will go down in our records as only the fourth defense since 1995 with an ALY below 3.0. The only front sevens that did more to prevent consistent run gains?

That's pretty incredible company for a defense featuring... um... who plays for this team again? Well, Lavonte David might be the Defensive Rookie of the Year (he gets to compete with Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Casey Hayward, and I'm sure I forgot somebody). David is third in the league with 18 run Defeats, which combines fumbles forced, tackles for loss, and tackles to prevent a third-down or fourth-down run from converting. He's behind only DeMeco Ryans at 19 and "Can we stop this silliness about Von Miller or Aldon Smith as DPOY" at 22.

Who else... well, Ndamukong Suh may have been the better prospect when they were drafted, and he may still be the better pass rusher, but Gerald McCoy has turned into a run-stopping juggernaut. We know they have Ronde Barber and first-round pick Mark Barron at safety, but now we've left the front seven, who are the guys mostly responsible for ALY.

The rest of these starters are really a bunch of guys you have never heard of. The starting tackle next to McCoy is 2009 third-round pick Roy Miller out of Texas. The starting defensive ends are veteran Michael Bennett and one-time SackSEER sleeper-turned-Eagles castoff Daniel Te'o-Nesheim. The other starting linebackers are Mason Foster, a third-round pick last year, and Quincy Black, a steady guy but never a star. He went on IR in November, replaced by Adam Hayward, who's been hanging around as a Bucs backup for six years. I assume you haven't heard of him either.

The Bucs also lead the league stuffing runners for no gain or a loss 34 percent of the time. That's only tenth historically, but it's by far the best figure this year. Detroit -- maybe Suh can stop the run too? -- is second at 27 percent.

Anyway, let's congratulate these mostly unknown players on doing at least part of their job really, really well. Unfortunately, in the modern NFL, the other part of the job -- "getting to the quarterback" -- is the more important part.

By the way, three of the top 10 figures in defensive ALY are the Ravens from 1998 to 2000. You really, really couldn't run on those guys.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 28 Dec 2012

10 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2012, 5:52pm by Dean

Comments

1
by Raiderjoe :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 9:43pm

Haven been saying all year since auguat that Lm. David begst defensive rook I NGL this seapsn

2
by dan harmon (not verified) :: Fri, 12/28/2012 - 11:55pm

Pff. I thought I was the only one who read FO drunk! Thanks, Raiderjoe!

And thank you, FO, for pointing things like this out. I wonder, though, if these stats aren't skewed by their schedule. They played the Redskins, Vikings, Chiefs, and Panthers all early in the season before any of those teams started realizing that running the ball made them better (or was the only thing they could do well). On top of that, they've played the Saints (twice), Cowboys, Giants, Raiders, Chargers, Rams, and Broncos. All these teams rank in the bottom half of simple run stats and (outside of the Raiders) aren't teams that pound the ball. There may be a chicken-egg situation here, but I think that the 2012 Bucs' place in history is at least heavily weighted by opponents.

3
by Insancipitory :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 12:17am

Well we'll find out next year since they play the NFC West and Mike [grab bag of vowels], he's horrible to watch. The only thing that can stop him is Harbaugh deciding not to run the football. It's like that movie Unleashed, except instead of a Chinese Smurf, he's a terrible giant.

/3 straight passes was the pefect way to start SNF last week.

6
by Aaron Schatz :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 12:24am

Well, our numbers are schedule-adjusted, so we try to correct for this certainly, although it isn't adjusted for what games are early or late in the season.

7
by abc123 (not verified) :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 10:43am

JJ Watt must have more run defeats no? He has 19.5 stuffs (tackles of runners not receivers behind the line of scrimmage with halves being awarded for assists) so even with no additional 3rd down stops or fumbles he would have ~20, no?

Thanks for the article though, I've been watching Davis for a few weeks now and appreciate anything that'll help create seperation between he and Luke Kuecley from Carolina.

8
by MC2 :: Sun, 12/30/2012 - 10:18pm

The article says (or at least implies) that Watt leads the league with 22 defeats.

4
by Mike J (not verified) :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 11:51am

David is second in the league in solo tackles.

5
by JonFrum :: Sat, 12/29/2012 - 8:25pm

So are the players great at run defense and bad at pass defense, or is the DC selling out to stop the run?

9
by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 11:31am

The cornerbacks are simply epically bad in every conceivable way; they just can't cover. Anyone. At all. The first few weeks of the season the team had a real pass rush, as Adrian Clayborn was looking to be a holy terror before his knee injury, and he on the outside mixed with McCoy pushing on the inside looked really promising. McCoy's still done a great job of pushing into the pocket, but the DEs just don't have the strength or speed to get around blockers to get to the QB. I've had the impression that this is a 4-3 that's playing kind of like a 3-4 in that the defensive line is simply holding up blockers while the LBs do a lot of the cleanup work.

And yes, Lavonte David has simply been incredibly good as a rookie. He's fast, smart, and recognizes plays very quickly. The one knock is he's aggressive enough that he's been exposed by play-action some, but even with a draft that featured Doug Martin and Mark Barron, David is pretty clearly the best rookie on that team.

10
by Dean :: Mon, 12/31/2012 - 5:52pm

Defensive Rookie of the Year (non-Watt division) should go to the guy who scored 3 TDs.