ATLANTA — From the very first snap Sunday, Lavonte David announced his presence at the Georgia Dome.
The second-year outside linebacker for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped Jacquizz Rodgers for a 4-yard loss on the first play from scrimmage and by the time David was finished knifing into Atlanta’s backfield, he had 10 solo tackles, including three for losses.
“I’ve been around some good linebackers in my day, but this kid can play,’’ Bucs veteran linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. “Lavonte proved it again today. He gave the team life.’’
Despite his relentless effort, David regretted his coverage on Rodgers coming out of the backfield as the Falcons faced a third-and-5 from the Bucs’ 19-yard line in the second quarter.
“I kind of lunged at him and he got leverage on me,’’ David said after Rodgers beat him to the outside for a 19-yard touchdown reception that put Atlanta ahead 14-0. “I was mad, but I’ve got to let those things go.
“Overall, I thought we had a good game plan against them. This 0-6 record hurts, because we’re in every game. We’ve got to dig deep and stop making those stupid penalties.’’
David, who led the Bucs with 139 stops as a rookie, became Tampa Bay’s leading tackler for the season (47) on a day that fan voting began for the Pro Bowl.
“I can’t say enough about Lavonte David,’’ Bucs middle linebacker Mason Foster said. “He’s as good as he wants to be.’’
Bucs running back Doug Martin was having a decent game until he landed on his left shoulder in the third quarter while leaping for an incomplete pass from Mike Glennon deep in Atlanta territory.
After the game, Martin’s left arm was in a sling, but he said his shoulder wasn’t separated.
“We’re still evaluating it and it feels all right right now,’’ said Martin, who ran for 47 yards on 11 carries. “The X-rays look good so far. I have a little range of motion and I’ll test it out (today). It’s not separated.’’
Safety Dashon Goldson suffered a knee injury in the opening half and briefly returned to the game before leaving for good. Goldson said he didn’t think his injury was serious, but he will be further evaluated today, three days before the Bucs face the Panthers at Raymond James Stadium.
Opportunity knocks for rookie running back
Rookie running back Mike James enjoyed his best pro game, gaining 45 yards on 14 carries while displaying his physicality.
The sixth-round draft pick out of the University of Miami ran hard all day, showing the forward lean that impressed coaches in training camp. James did most of his damage after Doug Martin was sidelined, but also contributed early with a stout block vs. blitzing CB Desmond Trufant that bought Mike Glennon enough time to hit Vincent Jackson for a 59-yard TD pass.
“You hate to see anyone go down, but it felt good to get out there and help,’’ said James, who had only three carries for 12 yards going into Sunday’s matchup. “From the first time I played football, I always wanted to run with a lean.’’