One Pillar In Place

November 7th, 2019

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Crawling through the wreckage of another lost Buc season, there’s a big man worth talking about.

Vita Vea is doing all the little things expected of him when Tampa Bay made him the 12th player off the draft board in 2018. Since missing the first three games of his rookie season due to a calf injury, Vea has been both healthy and impactful while doing all the dirty work in the trenches.

With the help of Ndamukong Suh, Vea has transformed the Bucs into the stingiest run defense unit in the entire league. Opponents are averaging only 78 rushing yards and 3.4 yards per carry, well below the NFL’s overall standard of 112 rushing yards and 4.3 yards per carry.

It has taken only 16 pro starts to validate all those comparisons to Haloti Ngata when Vea was considered a man among boys coming out of the University of Washington.

Like Ngata, who earned five Pro Bowl berths during a 13-year NFL career, Vea won’t ever be a double-digit sacker. But try telling the exhausted interior linemen trying to block Vea that he isn’t a force on virtually every snap.

“This guy has been a monster all season long,” says Rondé Barber, who has worked more than a few Buc games this season as a Fox analyst. “He’s one of the best run-defending defensive tackles in football.”

By the end of this year, Vea could stand alone in that regard.

Rare Traits 

He’s an immovable 350-pound force with quick feet and a non-stop motor. Those guys don’t come along very often and for those remaining Buc fans who still can’t believe Jason Licht passed on Derwin James, I’d advise them to put on the tape and see what No. 50 is putting down week after week.

Ngati was special. He was drafted by the Ravens in 2006 and for the following six seasons, Baltimore finished ranked 2-2-3-5-5-2 in run defense. They won a lot of football games in that span, in large part because Ngati shut down the inside rushing lanes and demanded constant double-teaming.

Vea is getting there — in a hurry.

You can see his confidence growing on the field. Off the field, he remains on the shy side.

On Wednesday, Cameron Brate tried to talk Vea into joining him for a lighthearted trivia game conducted by Scott Smith of Fox 13 Tampa every week in the Buc locker room. Vea declined the invitation, so Peyton Barber took on the Harvard man and lost a narrow decision.

Vita Vea

Maybe Vea will match wits with Brate next week. Maybe not.

Like Ngati, Vea does his talking on the field. Ngati finished his distinguished career with 32.5 sacks and while Vea may never reach that mark, don’t discount him as a factor on third-and-10.

“Is he a pass rusher? To me, yes he is,” Barber says. “No. 1, because of his strength, and No. 2, because of his quickness.”

Vea gives the Bucs a young pillar to build around on the defensive front. Veterans like Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul may move on in 2020, but Vea isn’t going anywhere. He has a nice friendly cap number of $4 million for next season — when the Bucs face key financial decisions.

During this season of despair, Buc supporters embrace good news wherever it can be found. Vita Vea offers a reason to smile, and he’s getting better with each week. He’s elevating his game for a franchise that isn’t exactly known for player development.

The Bucs have a 24-year-old star in the making, smack in the middle of their defense. They’ve got a long way to go, but it’s a start.

Ira Kaufman launched his professional NFL coverage in 1979, back when Earl Campbell was the toast of the league and Lee Roy Selmon was defensive player of the year. After a lifetime at The Tampa Tribune, “The Sage of Tampa Bay Sports” joined in July of 2016. His twice-weekly podcast and three columns per week appear here year-round and are presented by Bill Currie Ford. Tampa Bay’s only Hall of Fame voter is a regular on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio and a part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday show, in addition to his other appearances. You can hang out with Ira during every Bucs road games at Buffalo Wild Wings. His schedule is linked here.

30 Responses to “One Pillar In Place”

  1. Lord Corn Says:

    Too bad Licht hasn’t drafted more lineman or edge rushers despite the fan base banging the table for guys like Rankins / Tunsil / Trai Turner / Dalton Risner or Cody Ford / etc when we elected to take bad secondary players or Charles Sims.

  2. Hodad Says:

    I think Licht is the worst GM who ever lived, but I will never fault him for drafting Vea. He’s a rare human being, people with his size, speed, and ability don’t come around that often. I know, he doesn’t sack the QB, but he would if the secondary could cover. Trenches. Problem is Licht never drafted more for either side of the ball. We should have more Vea’s, D linemen, and more O line men. We have 6 DB’s the last two drafts, and one Vea, one Cappa, if you will. What if we had 3 top D linemen, and 3 O linemen, with two lesser DB’s chosen later? Bring in a vet corner, and safety. I think we’d be much better off.

  3. miken Says:

    Funny to hear LordCornsay that after jumping up and down with how happy he was and how smart spending 2 high picks on a kicker was! Something about fast motor kicks lol.

  4. zzbuc Says:

    I am not sure but I think Warre Sapp said, that Vea on Tampa’s weather would be a faliure….Am I right Joe?

  5. Lord Corn Says:

    Miken I’ve talked badly about the Kicker pick since day 1
    . Not sure wtf you are talking about unless you got a link to me being happy with the pick. Hell ask my wife how I audibly reacted when the selection was made … her main comment “ stop being so negative “

  6. Lord Corn Says:

    So sick of fans attacking each other on here too. Weak Take your grievances to the Glazers. None of this is the fans fault

  7. miken Says:

    Come on Gil, you were begging for the kicker before the draft, told us it was a great pick and blasted anyone that said it was stupid.

  8. Lord Corn Says:

    Who is Gil?

    Wtf is happening right now?

  9. DayOnePaul Says:

    More linemen in the first round Jason!
    Two QBs in the Hall since 1976 who were picked first, overall.
    RBs and Corners and Safeties and WRers fail in the first round as often or more than they succeed.
    Build from the inside out Jason.
    There is always a Derrick Carr or an Alvin Kamara or a Cooper Krupp or a Desmond King or a Dak Prescott to be found in the other rounds.
    Of course, that’ll mean doing some homework.
    Ahhh, never mind.
    It’s just about time for happy hour, Jason.

    Who’s the next GM?

  10. BucDan Says:

    Vita has been great this year.

    Regarding the pass rusher question: Yes, he is a pass rusher as well. He’d have a few more sacks this season if the QBs didn’t escape into the arms of another Buc rusher. So, he’s getting to the QB – he just has to finish.

  11. doctor_berto Says:

    zzbuc, Sapp did have a point as Vea is not even playing 65 percent of the snaps. But he is a force when he is on the field. But seeing as the secondary is a huge mess, Derwin still should have been the pick. Like Arians said, if you can get an All-pro at any position, you take him.

  12. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Yep….Vea labeled a bust by many…..along with Rojo & Cappa…..same is happening with Devin White & SMB now…..

    Licht has earned his reputation for poor picks…..but not all of them.

  13. 813bucboi Says:

    licht will trade VV right before the draft for a 3rd round pick and draft a CB….lol…

    GO BUCS!!!!!

  14. DB55 Says:

    Fwiw the rush def has improved dramatically since McIceCream’s gone.

  15. Steven007 Says:

    Who is Ngati? Is Ira using that as an affectation? If not Joe needs an editor.

  16. Bucsfanman Says:

    Lots of variables there, DB55. I tend to agree however.

  17. Buczilla Says:

    Rare good pick by Licht, but Licht must still walk the plank to bring back some hope.

  18. stpetebucsfan Says:

    DB55 A great lesson for you from science and facts. Coincidence is not the same as causation. It’s a common mistake.

    TBBF Could not agree more!

    Along those lines remember all the people who were just ripping on Vea last year when he not only missed three games but took the first half of the season to finally get acclimated and healthy.

    Do we see a parallel this year…..duh…White gets injured early…is slow to acclimate and the chorus warms up again.
    Then he plays two very good games in a row with three forced turnovers. This time next year if he stays healthy wanna guess how he’s going to be playing?

  19. pick6 Says:

    only think that can slow down a dude like Vea is lower body injuries. Humans like him test the limits of joints, tendons, and muscles to support and stabilize the frame. if he stays healthy he’s a franchise cornerstone that makes the rest of the front 7 better every snap

  20. PUGS&BUCS Says:

    I’d love to see him as FB on short yardage.

  21. TOM Says:

    The Bucs need to draft a OT with there first pick thats all there is to it. No more CB’s in the draft. Instead pickup some vets.

  22. Clw JB Says:

    Vea is a stud, love the kid and his attitude – he is a stone wall in the power run game, he gets out of his gap against zone running schemes still – but overall he is one of the great picks in recent years

    ME13, Godwin, Vea, Marpet, Cappa – for all the scouting bashing I do, we do have the occasional gem…just not ENOUGH!!!

  23. MadMax Says:

    Big V….. and I was one of the first to promote him way before the draft….was surprised we were able to trade back and still land him. I knew as long as he stayed healthy, he would be a beast. Ive said the same about White too, dont give up yet, Ali too, was also a first to promote him. I wanted ROJO and Godwin, and those are working….but I also wanted Justin Evans and OJ Howard and those arent looking too good so far. Eh, is what it is. The other players the past 4 years i dont remember promoting on here or celebrating the pick. I did want JW over Mariotta though, i remember that.

  24. stpetebucsfan Says:

    Pugs and Bucs

    Agree…and Vea was a star running back in high school. He’s a bit of a freakish athlete like his running mate Suh. In fact either of them could run it on the goal line or perhaps and elephant backfield with both Suh and Vea…together that’s close to a half ton of beef. Hate to be the LB or DB tasked with bringing them down.

  25. unbelievable Says:

    Lord Corn Says:
    November 7th, 2019 at 1:54 pm
    Too bad Licht hasn’t drafted more lineman or edge rushers despite the fan base banging the table for guys like Rankins / Tunsil / Trai Turner / Dalton Risner or Cody Ford / etc when we elected to take bad secondary players or Charles Sims



    Maybe one day we’ll have a GM that thinks the trenches are important. Maybe…

  26. Buc Frank Says:

    The Glazers should fire Licht and hire Ronde Barber as GM.

  27. ElBajito43 Says:

    Damn bro! This @Lord Corn 🌽 guy is talking some real Big Facts!

  28. Barack's Crack Pipe Says:

    If the G Boys keep Gump around, Vea’s talent will no doubt be wasted.

  29. Barack's Crack Pipe Says:

    doctor_berto Says:
    “… Arians said, if you can get an All-pro at any position, you take him.”

    Lichtweight thought “all-pro” was short for all-project.

  30. Barack's Crack Pipe Says:

    PUGS&BUCS Says:
    “I’d love to see him as FB on short yardage.”

    Many coaches would have rolled out this jumbo backfield by now.