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How Much Can Ndamukong Suh Help Vita Vea?

There’s a lot to like about this pairing.

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NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Vita Vea will be the main benefactor of Ndamukong Suh’s arrival.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted Gerald McCoy third overall back in the 2010 NFL Draft, it was clear that he would be the focal point of the defense.

One could argue the same point when the Bucs took Vita Vea 12th overall in the 2018 draft.

McCoy is no longer on the roster, but Vea remains. Regardless of the reason(s) why, it’s now Vea’s job to man the defensive line.

Vea is arguably the biggest key to the Bucs’ defense in 2019. His development will help determine how effective the unit can be and without McCoy, things weren’t going to be easy.

But the Bucs were able to bring in Ndamukong Suh who should slide right on in and take McCoy’s place, due to the fact that he is indeed a better fit for this defense.

More importantly, Suh’s presence should help Vea immensely. Maybe he’ll even help accelerate Vea’s learning curve.

The Los Angeles Rams used Suh all over the defensive line last season, which the Bucs should - and will likely - do as well. Not only will they form arguably one of the league’s strongest defensive interiors, but they can play off each other as well.

Hopefully Suh’s versatility will allow Vea to get to the quarterback often in 2019, something he showed he could do in 2018.

Vea’s primary responsibility in Mike Smith’s defense was to eat up blocks. Watch the play below and you’ll see what I mean.

As you can see, there were times where this worked, but you don’t take a nose tackle 12th overall to be a complementary piece or a space-eater. Arians knows this and that’s exactly why he brought in Suh - to make Vea into the player he is meant to be.

It’s no secret that Vea is an absolute beast on the football field. He has an excellent combination of quickness and strength for a man of his size - he’s 6-foot-4, 347-pounds - and he really improved his game toward the end of the 2018 season.

Obviously, the first thought that comes to mind is to have him plug gaps and take up space for his teammates to fly around and make plays, but there is more than just size to Vea’s game.

This is a perfect example of how agile the big man is. He is able to stop on a dime and chase down Redskins quarterback Alex Smith - who is pretty mobile - for the sack.

Here’s a better look in slow motion. Vea basically starts on the chin of the skull of the Bucs’ logo at midfield. Morgan Moses, the Redskins’ right tackle (#76) is who is on Vea.

Watch how he is able to suddenly stop, accelerate, and chase down Smith. The hashmarks are 18-feet-6-inches wide in the NFL. Vea is on the left hash and Smith is on the right when Vea begins the chase.

That’s pretty impressive. Sure, Vea didn’t have as much ground to cover as Smith - Vea had to run about six yards while Smith had to run 10 yards - but the ability to stop and move laterally like that is not common for interior defensive linemen.

With this type of agility, Vea can certainly be more than a run-stuffer - he can be a pass rusher as well. It will be fun to see how Todd Bowles uses both of them in his defense.

On this sack, he shows off his strength as he bull rushes Joe Staley while JPP executes the stunt. But if you pay close attention there is another factor at play that helps Vea bring down the quarterback - outside of the wide alignment and his ability to man the 3-tech.

McCoy takes on a double team which allows Vea and JPP to get the 1v1 matchup that every pass rusher dreams of.

Now take a look at the play below and see if you can find any similarities:

Suh draws the double-team, which allows Donald the 1v1. We’ve seen Vea draw double-teams before, but to see Suh do it means that other players - including Vea - will be able to bring pressure from other areas.

This one right here is beautiful because Vikings center Pat Elfein literally has to pick his poison between Donald and Suh, which I’m sure is what the Bucs hope to accomplish with Vea.

As Vea becomes more established as pass-rusher, the Bucs will able to use these wide alignments more often.

Interior pressure is what keys the some of the most successful defenses in today’s NFL and the Bucs now have the potential to create havoc inside.

And this one is off topic - BUT - just for fun, here is another example of how Todd Bowles can use Suh in this defense. Bowles’ defense has a lot of the same traits as Wade Phillips’ Rams.

Suh lines up out wide on the left side of the defensive line and uses some quick hands to beat right tack Rashod Hill at the top of the arc to get the sack.

And here is one last video is another example of how Suh’s versatility can help out Vea. On this one, he lines up at the 1-tech, which allows Donald to man the 3-tech. If you remember from the earlier video, Vea showed that he can indeed take down opposing quarterbacks from that very spot, so again - why shouldn’t the Bucs be able to pull this off?

Now, I realize Vea isn’t Donald - no one is.

But this example shows how Bowles will be allowed to have flexibility and versatility within his roster.

Suh is a better fit for this defense than McCoy and Vea should reap some major dividends throughout the season.


How many sacks do you think Vita Vea finishes with in 2019?

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