Devin White's NFL career started with a bang on draft night when Tampa Bay made him a top-five selection.
It's had plenty of bumps -- a knee injury, three games missed, a slow return -- since then. But Sunday, White made a massive stride toward proving why the Buccaneers may have been right in taking him at No. 5.
The rookie linebacker recorded seven tackles, his first career interception, returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown and led a goal-line stand to keep the Jaguars from moving within a score late in the Buccaneers' 28-11 win in Jacksonville. White traveled from boundary to boundary, playing excellent pass coverage and mirroring running back Leonard Fournette all afternoon, especially in key moments.
His tackle of his former LSU teammate on first-and-goal and pass break-up of a throw intended for Fournette on second-and-goal were key plays in a possession that ultimately produced zero points for Jacksonville and kept the score at 25-11. White's tackle of Fournette on fourth-and-21 four minutes later ensured Jacksonville's comeback attempt would be fruitless.
And before he made either of those plays, he set the tone by taking down the bruising Fournette with a crushing blow in the flats for a loss.
"I was just trying to let him know I'm in the league, I'm a big boy now," White said of his message to Fournette, per the Tampa Bay Times. "I'm not the same freshman from LSU. My game done rose to another level."
White's performance Sunday was the latest and greatest of a stretch of excellent play, which has coincided with two straight wins for the Buccaneers. Last week, White sacked Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan twice and finished with eight total tackles, and he's twice broken double digits in tackles this season. The difference between those performances and his last two weeks, though, are the results: consecutive wins.
"It's my time, I guess," White said. "I've been set back this year, but I never complained, and I also kept my head down and kept working.
"It's time for me to show out. It's time for me to show the world what I can do, and it's time for me to keep building on it."
It might not mean much for a Buccaneers team whose season was essentially lost after a 34-17 defeat at the hands of the division champion Saints, but those who believe in building momentum toward next season can see plenty of progress made in Tampa Bay's relatively young defense. With first-round investments like White and defensive tackle Vita Vea living up to their billing, there's reason to be excited for what lies ahead beyond 2019.