Bucs confident LB Kendell Beckwith can compete to start despite injury

Third-round pick Kendell Beckwith tore his ACL on Nov. 19. Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire

TAMPA, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Buccaneers new rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith is used to getting in on the action. The third-round draft pick had a knack for exceptionally hard hits at LSU. But in rookie camp last week, he was forced to stand on the sideline. He's been recovering from a torn ACL suffered on Nov. 19 of last year and has not been able to practice.

"It's tough," Beckwith admitted. "It's definitely a little boring sitting back watching because I'm such a competitor, but it's just a process. I've got to take my time with it and hopefully I'll be ready."

Bucs general manager Jason Licht and his scouting department had been watching Beckwith the last two years. They also had insight from his former teammate, Bucs starting middle linebacker Kwon Alexander, and saw a strong track record of LSU linebackers in the NFC South. That made them comfortable not only drafting Beckwith, but trading back into the third round to select him despite the injury.

"He got hurt so he slid a little bit because of it," Licht said. "We’re anticipating – I mean, we haven’t got our hands on him besides physicals during this process [and] you want to be around a guy everyday to know exactly where he is – but we're very confident he's going to be ready this season. [It] could be July that he's ready to go."

Beckwith added, "[The recovery] is going really good. I'm feeling pretty good right now. I'm just trying to do a good job of following the trainers' lead."

Official training camp dates have not been announced yet, but it will be sometime around the end of July. The expectation there is that he'll compete with Devante Bond for the strongside linebacker role, replacing veteran Daryl Smith.

While Beckwith played middle linebacker as a three-year starter in college, he welcomes the change.

"It's definitely a switch, but I'll line up and play anywhere," Beckwith said. "If that's what they want me to do, I'll do it. ... I'm a competitor. I'm willing to work and really willing to compete for that job."

Alexander also had to make a change when he got to the next level. He played outside at LSU and moved inside when he was drafted by the Bucs.

Beckwith joked, "If they want me to go back and play safety, some corner, maybe a little wideout, I'll do that too. High school my senior year was probably my last time doing that. It's been a while, but I think I still got it."

At 6-foot-2, 243 pounds, Beckwith has the size to make the transition to the SAM spot and has the downhill, physical style that is needed for Mike Smith's defense. And unlike the MIKE position, he doesn't need to be great in coverage because he won't be on the field for every snap. Alexander and Lavonte David will handle that.

"He has played with his hand down -- he's rushed, he's played on the line of scrimmage," Licht said. "So those are all things that you look for in a SAM, being able to butt heads and play physical."

According to Pro Football Focus, Beckwith made a stop on 11.7 percent of run snaps last season, fourth among SEC linebackers. Meanwhile, the Bucs allowed 2.8 yards per rush before first contact last season, seventh-worst in the NFL, so he'll be a welcome addition.

They just have to show a little patience first.