Bucs LB Britt Is A Quick Learner, But Is He Fast Enough To Be A Starter?

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 position heading into 2022. The Bucs opted to not re-sign the 30-year-old Minter this offseason.

However Tampa Bay hopes that Britt can turn into far 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 may very well 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 12 months. And he has drawn rave critiques from the group’s coaches and personnel division for the progress he’s made getting into 12 months two.

Bucs ILBs Devin White and KJ Britt – Photograph courtesy of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

“He’s extra so serving to me proper now,” White mentioned. “He’s been right here all the section one [and] section two getting the set up, so he was a bit of step forward of me. However he’s an amazing participant. He’s anyone I can see myself taking part in by for a very long time. Clearly, I wish to play with Lavonte a bit of extra time, however all people has their day.

“I believe if me or Lavonte goes down, I believe he’s an amazing man to step in. He took possession of being right here and studying and simply getting his toes down and simply displaying the coaches that, if one thing ever occurs, ‘I’m capable of take over.’ So, I actually admire that from him – I inform him each day. We simply had an amazing apply on the market collectively. We movement collectively as a result of he likes to speak. I like to speak. We’re principally the identical folks. I’m method quicker, although … But it surely’s enjoyable taking part in with Okay.J.”

White is method quicker. The No. 5 general choose within the 2019 NFL Draft, White was the quickest linebacker popping out of faculty that 12 months. 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. Displaying the flexibility to ultimately change David as a starter is sort 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 should draft or signal one other linebacker to in the end change David when the time comes.

But, mastering the protection from a psychological standpoint this offseason has made Britt play quicker on the sphere.

“Sooner processing is a giant factor,” Bucs head coach Todd Bowles mentioned. “He may at all times play. However when he processes quicker, he performs quicker.”

After recording 27 tackles, two tackles for loss and a go breakup in his first two years at Auburn, Britt had a breakout junior season. In his first 12 months as a starter, Britt had 68 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, two compelled fumbles and a go breakup.

Bucs LBs Grant Stuard and K.J. Britt

Bucs LBs Grant Stuard and Okay.J. Britt – Photograph by: USA In the present day

He notched 11 tackles towards Kentucky and 12 stops towards Georgia within the first two video games of the 2020 season earlier than tearing ligaments in his thumb towards the Bulldogs. That harm 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 sort out downhill. He’ll show to be a superb match for Bowles’ scheme if he turns into adept at dropping into protection – and by displaying he’s quick sufficient to cowl backs and tight ends beneath. As a rookie, Britt had 12 tackles, a sort out for loss and a go breakup in restricted obligation on protection.

“It’s nice for him going into his second 12 months as a result of he clearly has to be taught ‘MIKE’ and ‘MO’ [linebacker positions],” Bowles mentioned. “So, he has to be taught two spots proper now and he’s been right here each day. He seems to be lots quicker than he was final 12 months, so it’s been nice for him. I search for massive issues from him this 12 months.”