The Bucs drafted Okay.J. Britt within the fifth spherical in 2021 to assist on particular groups and develop right into a substitute for veteran reserve linebacker Kevin Minter. As a rookie, Britt made a splash on particular groups with 5 tackles and he’s in line for the highest backup linebacker function heading into 2022. The Bucs opted to not re-sign the 30-year-old Minter this offseason.
However Tampa Bay hopes that Britt can grow to be way more than the No. 3 linebacker on the depth chart behind Professional Bowler Devin White and Bucs legend Lavonte David. The group is cautiously optimistic that Britt might be David’s eventual substitute and group with White within the beginning lineup for years to come back.
White hopes that’s the case, too. Britt has been a continuing fixture at each OTA apply and offseason exercise this yr. And he has drawn rave evaluations from the group’s coaches and personnel division for the progress he’s made coming into yr two.
“He’s extra so serving to me proper now,” White stated. “He’s been right here all the part one [and] part two getting the set up, so he was slightly step forward of me. However he’s a fantastic participant. He’s anyone I can see myself enjoying by for a very long time. Clearly, I need to play with Lavonte slightly extra time, however everyone has their day.
“I believe if me or Lavonte goes down, I believe he’s a fantastic man to step in. He took possession of being right here and studying and simply getting his ft down and simply exhibiting the coaches that, if one thing ever occurs, ‘I’m capable of take over.’ So, I actually respect that from him – I inform him on daily basis. We simply had a fantastic apply on the market collectively. We circulation collectively as a result of he likes to speak. I like to speak. We’re principally the identical individuals. I’m means quicker, although … But it surely’s enjoyable enjoying with Okay.J.”
White is means quicker. The No. 5 general choose within the 2019 NFL Draft, White was the quickest linebacker popping out of school that yr. He blazed a 4.42 40-yard sprint on the NFL Scouting Mix. When David was the Bucs’ second-round choose in 2012, he ran a 4.57.
Britt is significantly slower, working a 4.75 on the NFL Scouting Mix. That sluggish time, and the truth that he solely began 15 video games at Auburn, is a part of the rationale why he fell to the fifth spherical.
Changing Minter because the No. 3 linebacker is one factor. Exhibiting the power to finally exchange David as a starter is kind of one other. Whereas he’ll by no means be in David’s class as an athlete or a playmaker, Britt might want to have a giant coaching camp and preseason to point out that he’s quick sufficient to be an NFL starter. In any other case, the Bucs could need to draft or signal one other linebacker to in the end exchange David when the time comes.
But, mastering the protection from a psychological standpoint this offseason has made Britt play quicker on the sector.
“Quicker processing is a giant factor,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles stated. “He may at all times play. However when he processes quicker, he performs quicker.”
After recording 27 tackles, two tackles for loss and a move breakup in his first two years at Auburn, Britt had a breakout junior season. In his first yr as a starter, Britt had 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two pressured fumbles and a move breakup.
He notched 11 tackles in opposition to Kentucky and 12 stops in opposition to Georgia within the first two video games of the 2020 season earlier than tearing ligaments in his thumb in opposition to the Bulldogs. That damage prematurely ended his senior season, though he did get well in time to play within the Senior Bowl.
At 6-foot, 235 kilos, Britt is a giant, bodily linebacker who can blitz, tackle blocks and deal with downhill. He’ll show to be a very good match for Bowles’ scheme if he turns into adept at dropping into protection – and by exhibiting he’s quick sufficient to cowl backs and tight ends beneath. As a rookie, Britt had 12 tackles, a deal with for loss and a move breakup in restricted obligation on protection.
“It’s nice for him going into his second yr as a result of he clearly has to be taught ‘MIKE’ and ‘MO’ [linebacker positions],” Bowles stated. “So, he has to be taught two spots proper now and he’s been right here on daily basis. He appears quite a bit quicker than he was final yr, so it’s been nice for him. I search for massive issues from him this yr.”