Before we get started....
I’m going to be referring to draft measureables and how NFL GMs, scouts, coaches, etc. apply said measureables to each position and what they mean. So, to keep things simple, I’ve plugged this combine chart that Gil Brandt tweeted out before the 2019 NFL Draft. Use this as a guide to better understand the context of the conversation.
Now, on to the main feature.
Everyone knows that there are always “matchups within a matchup” when it comes to Sundays in the NFL. Many games are decided on who beats who in what situation, when it happens, and how it happens. That’s just the nature of the beast.
Well, it just so happens that the Bucs and Colts will have one of the premier matchups within a matchup this week when they face off in Raymond James Stadium.
Have you ever heard about Tampa Bay defensive tackle Vita Vea? What about Colts offensive guard Quenton Nelson?
If you haven’t then you’re in for a treat, but if you have, then you know exactly where I’m heading.
Go ahead and ding the bell. It’s time to rumble.
Power vs. Power
Sometimes it’s just all about strength, and there’s no question that these two guys could break me quicker than Theon Greyjoy, as well as any other average human being on this planet.
At the combine, Vea was able to record 41 reps of 225-pounds. Nelson threw it up 35 times. Vea is listed at 6-foot-4, 347-pounds, while Nelson weighs in at 6-foot-5, 330-pounds. Both players are among the top at their position when it comes to strength.
They’re not top-heavy, either, evidenced by Nelson’s 105-inch broad jump recorded at the 2018 NFL Combine. Vea has a very strong lower body as well, but he also extremely light feet, which would be like Sasquatch doing the moonwalk, if you need a visual.
Just watch how Vea (#50) drives back Jaguars left guard Andrew Norwell (#68) with ease:
If there’s one guy who doesn’t enjoy playing Vea, it’s center Matt Paradis (#61) of the Carolina Panthers. He has no chance on this play as Vea just drives him into Cam Newton, essentially causing the incompletion:
Vea is able to get his hands inside of both players’ chests and just drives them into the backfield, which causes havoc on both plays. This is certainly one way attack Nelson on Sunday.
Now, it’s Nelson’s turn (#56). He has had success blocking some of the premier defenders in this league using his array of tools. He gets the best of both J.J. Watt (#99) and Jadeveon Clowney (#90) on this play using his strength, awareness, and agility.
That’s right. He blocks both defenders. Just take a look below if you don’t believe me:
And here he is getting the best of Titans defensive lineman Jurrell Casey (#99). It all starts with Nelson’s first step. he gets a great jump off the snap and is immediately able to get his hands on Casey. Nelson then uses his lower-body strength and a wide base to hold Casey at the point of attack. It gives quarterback Jacoby Brissett enough time to find tight end Jack Doyle for the 21-yard touchdown:
Trust me, you have to have some meathooks in order to corral Casey, which is exactly what Nelson has.
But both can be taken advantage of, as well.
Here, Vea is rendered obsolote by left guard Greg Van Roten (#73). His pad level is too high, which hinders his explosiveness and also allows Van Roten to push him around. Vea will need to keep his pad level low and maintain his balance if he wants to have consistent success against Nelson.
Nelson can be pushed around, too. On this play, he opens his chest for some reason at the jump of the snap and Cameron Heyward (#97) is able to get his hands inside and drive Nelson into Brissett, who was actually injured on the play:
Titans’ defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons (#98) whomps Nelson on this 3rd-and-1. Simmons is able to keep his pad level low and just explodes into Nelson. Good outside contain combined with Simmons’ presence forces Brissett to throw the ball away as he escapes the collapsing pocket and realizes no one is open:
Big men with moves
Make no mistake about it: just because these guys are big and strong, doesn’t mean they aren’t athletic. It’s actually quite the opposite with these two.
Just check out how Nelson is able to stay with Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt (#90) on this play. Watt blitzes the B gap, but Nelson continues to move his feet while playing with good leverage, which allows him to mirror Watt perfectly and prevent him from getting to the quarterback:
And of course, you have to show the majestic work that is Nelson pulling on a run play. He just gracefully moves across the field like a gazelle while routinely picking off defenders on this run:
I can only imagine what poor Kareem Orr (#20) was thinking as he saw the big man rumbling his way. That’s usually when you see a player make a quick business decision.
Vea has some moves of his own and can really use his hands in an effective manner, especially when he uses his signature hump move. On this play, he takes an inside step and jabs Paradis just to bounce back out and take after Newton. It’s a very effective combo that allows Vea to use his strength and athleticism:
This is one of the better examples of how effective this move can be. Vea’s blend of speed and strength knocks right guard Brandon Fusco (#65) - who is 6-foot-4, 306-pounds - off balance:
And then who can forget the classic spin move against the Rams?
Look at the big guy go! That is an unreal blend of size and agility.
He can also run, just like Nelson. He recorded a 5.1 40-yard dash at the combine and played running back in high school. Just watch him track down quarterback Alex Smith on this play:
That’s a lot of ground to cover in that short of a time span for a big guy.
As you can see, both of these guys are extremely gifted. That’s one of the main reasons why they were both top-12 selections in the 2018 NFL Draft.
This matchup will be so much fun to watch and it could also play a big role in determining the outcome of the game.
What is better than two young, talented players going head-to-head?
Well a Bucs win is better, of course. And if Vea can take control on Sunday, then the odds of that hapenning are very good.