Measuring Vita Vea

June 1st, 2020

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We haven’t seen the best of Vita Vea, and that’s a tantalizing thought for Buc Nation.

Tampa Bay’s third-year defensive tackle proved his durability in 2019 with 16 starts, playing a key role on the NFL’s stingiest run defense.

And after participating in 66 percent of the defensive snaps last season, Vea is expecting a more challenging workload this fall.

Todd Bowles needed no prompting last week in declaring that Vea will see more playing time.

Why not? He’s earned it.

Vita Vea

Tampa Bay’s obvious breakthrough player last season was free agent Shaq Barrett, who topped the league in sacks after being relegated to situational minutes in Denver. Vea’s a good bet to supplant Barrett as this year’s breakthrough performer, raising his production across the board.

The 12th pick in the 2018 draft made significant strides last season while staying healthy. He posted 2.5 sacks, 35 tackles, 12 QB hits and 22 pressures. Those are nice numbers, but Vea is poised to make a bigger impact.

His inside partner, Ndamukong Suh, remained in Tampa rather than sign elsewhere as a free agent. That continuity will help Vea, at 25 the team’s only notable young starter up front.

“The sky’s the limit for him as a defensive player,” says Bruce Arians.

Vea’s value goes far beyond the stat sheet. He often ties up multiple blockers in the interior, opening up lanes for Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul to wreak havoc on the edges.

“Nobody can block Vita Vea,” says NFL Network analyst Brian Baldinger, who played 11 years as an offensive lineman for the Cowboys, Colts and Eagles. “You’ve got to put two on him. Outside of Aaron Donald and Fletcher Cox, this is the third-best defensive tackle in the business.”

That’s high praise, given Vea has made only 24 pro starts. But when you watch him manhandle centers and collapse the pocket, it’s easy to visualize Vea in a Pro Bowl jersey.

Muzzling Model 

In just two seasons, he has already established himself as a prototype. When Cardinals GM Steve Keim was asked whether fourth-round pick Leki Fotu, a 330-pound defensive tackle out of Utah, should be considered a 2-down run-stuffer, he alluded to No. 50.

“I think there’s a little more versatility there,” Keim said. “I thought I saw a little Vita Vea in him when I was looking at him.”

You want versatility? How about a massive lineman lining up at fullback and catching a TD pass at Atlanta last year? Considering the way Vea’s teammates swarmed him after the 1-yard score, you’d have thought he just clinched a Super Bowl win for the Bucs.

One measure of Vea’s growth is the muzzle he has placed on the Derwin James gang.

The Chargers jumped on the Florida State safety at No. 17, five picks after Vea came off the board. While James enjoyed a terrific rookie season before a foot injury limited him to only five games in 2019, the Bucs have no regrets about their selection.

“Look at the speed that he comes down the line with,” Baldinger said, watching Vea’s tape. “When he hits you, it’s like a tsunami of Polynesian power coming at you. Nobody can handle him … nobody.”

Vea goes airborne for his first NFL touchdown last year.

In a few years, the Bucs will have to shell out big bucks to retain Vea’s services. They will do so gladly, knowing his upside may be more prominent than his backside.

For the first time since Gerald McCoy’s early days, the Bucs boast a young defensive lineman with Pro Bowl potential. He already has an assortment of pass-rush moves and Vea’s strength and agility make him a powerful force against the run.

Tampa Bay’s future up front is tied to Vita Vea. He’ll be here long after Suh and Pierre-Paul move on or retire. He’s difficult to budge and, at the moment, impossible to replace.

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15 Responses to “Measuring Vita Vea”

  1. D-Rome Says:

    Vita Vea will be the best NT in football before his rookie contract is finished.

  2. Morgus the Magnificent Says:

    “Measuring Vita Vea”…….better have a dang long tape measure.

  3. Tampabuscsbro Says:

    Pretty much D-Rome, it’s why to no end it irritates me when one of the Joes gets angry he doesn’t have more sacks with everything else you can look at any film of him out there and see all of what he does. there was a reason those linebackers of our did as well as they did outside of their own skill set.

  4. PSL Bob Says:

    Couldn’t agree more. A true man beast anchoring the middle of the line. I’d really like to see him used more in the offense in critical short yardage and red zone situations.

  5. ZZbuc Says:

    Great draft…As long as Barret or JPP or some other player can keep the pace on sacks I really don´t care Vea´s lack of sachs, he has done a terrific job on NT, I erally think he is a beast….That being said, if he can also add some sacks more than welcome…….Great adquisition…….

  6. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Licht was prescient when he selected Vea before it was certain that the Bucs would convert to a 3-4 defense. It may have been a waste of his talent potential to have used him as a replacement in the 3-technique for GMAC.

    He will indeed ascend to the top as “THE NT” in the NFL. I look for great things from him this year.

  7. SteveK Says:

    If Maui and Wilfork had a baby.

    Vea is a monster. So, so pumped to have this beast of a human being on our team.

  8. Bojim Says:

    The Derwin James gang. Probably already on the Vea bandwagon.

  9. bucsince79 aka bumaneer Says:

    Great Pic!!! Vita is a beast!!! Great Article Ira…

  10. Look at my stats, I'm ballin Says:

    “knowing his upside may be more prominent than his backside”

    Caught me off guard with that one, Ira. Kudos.

    Yall should attach the link to the Baldys Breakdown, really shows Vea’s monstrosity in the middle. The dude is so nasty.

  11. stpetebucsfan Says:

    D.R. is constantly describing cap balance…between O and D and between rookie money and vet money.

    I think we’re in position if we do not mess up to get this balance and keep it. Depends on who we draft to replace JPP and Suh and of course TB12. We are building a good core with balance between vets and youth.

  12. Miller5252 Says:

    I really hope Vea has his break out season this year. He really needs to be On the field a lot more then he has to really be considered one of the best. If he stays on the field, gets his sack total close to double digest and continues to demand double teams while stuffing the middle Tampa will finally have a monster in the middle. I really do think this is the year that his knowledge meets the same level as ability and he becomes dominate.

  13. Barack's Crack Pipe Says:

    PSL Bob Says:
    “I’d really like to see him used more in the offense.”

    Ditto. As a lead blocker!

  14. Buczilla Says:

    Cool article Ira. Easily one of my favorite players and fun as hell to watch.

  15. No Risk It No Biscuit Says:

    I predict Vita will make the Ring of Honor I like I Scream man.

    Great job like always Ira!