As the Tampa Bay defense struggles, linebacker Devin White has become an increasing subject of scrutiny and criticism, both for perceived lack of skill and effort. It came to a head on Thursday night against the Ravens.
On Friday, coach Todd Bowles defended White.
“I don’t think there’s been a drop-off — defense is a team sport,” Bowles told reporters. “You’re not going to be a star by yourself. There are guys in front of you and guys behind you. To say that Devin has dropped off . . . the defense has dropped off, I would say. I wouldn’t say Devin has dropped off. It’s about playing together, it’s about making your reads and doing the right things. He’s doing a lot of things we asked him to do — I have no problems with Devin.”
The eye in the sky, as they say, doesn’t lie. Here’s White getting manhandled by Ravens rookie center Tyler Linderbaum. Here’s White not doing his best to keep Kenyan Drake out of the end zone. Here’s a collection of plays that show some of both.
Bowles said the coaching staff singles out instance of loafing. He said that, sometimes, players are gassed. And sometimes they’re loafing.
So was White loafing or gassed?
“A little bit of both,” Bowles said.
But while the coaches spotted loafing by White, Bowles isn’t ready to call White a loafer.
“Devin is our starter,” Bowles said as to the possibility of White being demoted. “I didn’t see some loafing, I saw a play [where he loafed]. You can point to anybody on this team when you say they weren’t playing well any week of the season. To pick on Devin is unnecessary.”
Picking on a player and picking out specific plays where he didn’t play well are two different things. White, who has shown in the past that he can perform at a high level, isn’t. Given what he’s previously done, what he’s doing now tends to stand out.