Four Top Inside Linebackers Bucs Can Target in 2015

NFL NEWS: Tampa Bay Bucs

One stat the Bucs defense excelled in 2014 was tackling with 1,165, which means they were probably one of the most overworked.

By contrast, the NFLs no. 1 defense in the Seattle Seahawks finished 31st in tackling with 936. In this instance, fewer is better. The defense made the three-and-out stops, the offense had more time to move the ball and control the clock.

Three of the five top tacklers for the Bucs are the starting linebackers in Lavonte David, Danny Lansanah and Mason Foster who account for 289 of 1165 (or 25 percent) team tackles.

Here are a few faces who can help the team.

David Harris

Harris has been a reliable presence with the New York Jets since being drafted in the second round in 2007. In his eight years with the team, hes only missed five games throughout his career, all in 2008. Hes amassed 885 combined tackles (580 total and 305 assisted), 30.5 sacks, nine fumbles forces and six interceptions for his career. Hes only missed triple digit tackles three times in his career, including his injury-shortened season averaging 111 tackles a season.

Harris reached a career-high six sacks in 2014, the Jets have yet to sign him to a new deal. Hes also coming from three consecutive seasons with more than 120 tackles. Hes also the most expensive inside linebacker making $7 million in 2014. He may not command the same salary as he once did, according to Dom Cosentino.

The Bucs could target him to be the kind of presence Hardy Nickerson was to them when he was brought on board to the team as middle linebacker in 1993. Nickerson, the current linebackers coach, can solidify Harris and put him over the top in the position Foster never came to be.

Rey Maualuga

Maualuga was drafted in the second round by the Cincinnati Bengals in 2009 and has been one of their more consistent linebackers. The six-year veteran has 482 combined tackles (283 total and 199 assisted), four sacks, six fumbles forced and five interceptions with the team. Maualugas best year was in 2012 where he had careers high in tackles with 122. He currently averages 80 tackles a season.

While Bucs fans might be a bit wary of taking more Bengals players after the disappointing season from defensive end Michael Johnson and offensive tackle Anthony Collins in their Buccaneer debut season, Maualugas been a proven leader in the Cincinnati locker room and reuniting with Johnson in Tampa could improve defensive play given their history.

Ramik Wilson

One of the key components of the Tampa 2 is that the linebackers can play zone and cover mid-to-deep routes, which Wilson seems to fit that mold. According to Dane Brugler of CBS Sports, Wilson has the athletic ability to flip and run down the seam with pass-catchers, positioning himself well downfield.

The Georgia prospect stands at 6-foot-2 and 237 lb. and projects to be a mid-rounder in the third or fourth. The Bucs would be wise to target him once they address their quarterback and offensive line issues in the first two rounds and no related trades/signings have been made.

Wilsons local familiarity also stems from the fact that before going on to great success as a Bulldog including earning All-SEC First Team honors in 2013, he was recruited from Jefferson High School in Tampa.

Stephone Anthony

Anthony exhibits the versatility required of the position. According to Derek Stephens and Rob Rang of CBS Sports, Anthony has the ability to read the run to make plays between the tackles and hold his own dropping back in the short zone or covering the middle.

Anthonys ability to attack the gaps and tackling are things Nickerson and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier can exploit and coach up despite his lack of innate ability for lateral pursuit.

The prospect from Clemson stands at 6-foot-3 and 243 lb. was originally projected to go in the fourth round, who now, thanks to the combine, some see as a first rounder.

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About Tom

Tom Chang is a freelance journalist with a background in multimedia journalism and web publishing. He is currently pursuing his Masters in Journalism and Media Studies from the University of South Florida St.Petersburg. He graduated in 2004 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communications at USF Tampa. Tom's interests include a little bit of everything from entertainment to sports. He also wishes to delve into creative writing writing sci-fi/fantasy stories. Tom was recently the Online Editor for USF St. Petersburg's the Crow's Nest, he joined the staff in January 2010 where he started freelance writing, photographing, copy editing and later became a staff writer. Tom’s freelance experience in journalism amassed a wide range of companies including Creative Loafing, The Focus Magazine, Lutz News, Examiner.com, and Tampa Tribune.
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