TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith frequently calls Lavonte David the best outside linebacker in the NFL.
So why was David once again overlooked when the Pro Bowl selections were announced Tuesday night?
It’s simple. It also is unfair and shows a flaw in how the Pro Bowl rosters are structured.
The fact is that David doesn’t have the kind of statistics as his competition. He has one sack and no interceptions. His 141 tackles are an impressive number, but that’s not what Pro Bowl voters are looking for.
They’re looking for sacks, and the proof is in who made the roster. It’s filled with outside linebackers that play in 3-4 schemes. A huge part of their job is to rush the passer. They’re bound to put up numbers.
David plays in a 4-3 scheme in which he rarely gets an opportunity to rush the passer. His job is to go from sideline to sideline and make tackles. He does that as well as any 4-3 linebacker in the game.
But David, a third alternate for the Pro Bowl, might continue to get overlooked because of the system he plays in. Defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier said Wednesday that the system shouldn’t limit David’s Pro Bowl chances.
“I think for sure Lavonte will be able to make enough plays in this defense," Frazier said. “You don’t have to go any further than Derrick Brooks to take a look at that. It’s been done before. He will continue to improve in this system and get better and we look forward to congratulating him on his first Pro Bowl appearance eventually. He’ll make enough plays in this system to go to the Pro Bowl."
But the odds are stacked against David as long as the current system is in place for filling Pro Bowl rosters. Smith has said it’s an injustice that outside linebackers from 4-3 schemes have to compete against players from 3-4 schemes and he’s right.
The NFL needs to make another category for outside linebackers who play in a 4-3 scheme. Until that happens, David and some other very good linebackers will continue to be overlooked.