They are the defense’s biggest stars. They make the defense’s biggest checks.
Lately, however, they have not made the defense’s biggest plays.
For the Tampa Bay Bucs, that’s a problem.
Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy are household names locally, two of the last players you would name when discussing the team’s problems. Yet, it’s been a difficult season for them both.
McCoy has four tackles in the last three weeks. David has been noticeable for the tackles he has not made. And the Bucs, meanwhile, are 3-5 as they get ready to play the Dallas Cowboys.
“I don’t know that,” coach Lovie Smith said when asked about the lack of impact plays by them both. “I wish I knew the answer for that. We do have high expectations. They have high expectations for themselves.
“Lavonte David missed some tackles yesterday. He was in position to make some other plays. Sometimes it just doesn’t happen for whatever reason. It eventually will happen. Lavonte is a great player, same thing for Gerald. I think you have to be careful sometimes when you just look at the stat sheet. Forgetting just the stat sheet, both of those guys would say it’s not good enough, just like very few of our defensive players would say that. Very few of our players in general would say that. When you have three wins, very few of us have played exactly the way we should, but that’s at the halfway point. That’s how we are. We’ll see improved play from these guys.”
Still, it has been easy to miss both players.
“You can look at it a number of different ways,” McCoy said. “With the success I’ve had in past years, I’m going to draw a lot of attention. You just have to learn how to play through that, find different ways to get open and produce. No, it hasn’t been what I want, especially since the Bye Week. I just need to pick it up. And I understand that.”
McCoy acknowledges that any Bucs’ success has to start with him and David.
“Any team throughout the league, or sports period, if a team has their best players, if a team is going to make a turnaround or change or be successful, the best players have to produce,” McCoy said. “We’re just not doing that right now. It doesn’t change who we are or what we’ve done, but this is a ‘What have you done for me lately’ league. We understand that, so, moving forward, we just have to be better. Let’s not lose sight that this is just midway through the season. There are eight more of these things to come. They talked about Carolina yesterday, they were 3-8-1 and since then they’ve won 12 straight or something like that. Things can turn around. But as far as myself, there’s a lot more I can do and I promise you I’m putting everything I’ve got into it and it will turn around.”
McCoy has been limited by a bad shoulder all season, but he won’t blame his pedestrian play on his injury.
“It is what it is,” McCoy said. “You’ve just got to play through it. I’m not the only person hurting. If I can be out there, I’m going to be out there, it’s as simple as that. So I’m not going to sit out if I know I can play. I’ve missed enough games in my career, I don’t want to miss any more, I promise you. So if I got to play through pain, whatever. My team needs me, so I’m going to be out there.”
Still, McCoy said, it is a frustrating time in his career.
“When I woke up this morning, I was sitting in the bed thinking this frustration that I have with myself feels like my first or second year,” McCoy said. “I haven’t been this frustrated with myself in a while. But there’s not a fan, coach or media member who can be as frustrated with myself as I am. And I understand that me being a franchise player, I have to do more. I understand that. And that’s where a lot of my frustration comes – that’s where a lot of my frustration was yesterday. I know I have to be better and I just needed time to cool off [after yesterday’s game]. But I will be [better]. I will be.”