When you’re the 12th overall pick of the NFL Draft, expectations are going to be high, especially if you’re a nose tackle.
When the team you play for cuts one of its best pass rushers - one that played for said team for nine seasons and was a former captain - those expectations not only become larger, but the timetable to meet them accelerates, quickly.
Expectations, meet Vita Vea.
Vita Vea, meet expectations.
In all honesty, there hasn’t been much talk surrounding Vea so far this offseason and that’s not a bad thing. The franchise is still just a month out from the draft, just relieved itself of the Gerald McCoy saga, and signed Ndamukong Suh, so, there have been plenty of other topics discuss outside of Vea.
But now, maybe it’s time to start talking about the second-year player and his potential impact on the Bucs’ defense.
For starters, Vea was one of the most dominant defensive linemen toward the end of the 2018 season. He showed off the run-stuffing abilities and explosion that he was already known for, but he also displayed some very impressive pass rush skills.
Bruce Arians’ tone concerning Vea was certainly encouraging after OTAs last week. “I’m really pleased with where Vita [Vea] is,” he told reporters after camp. “I think he’s making extremely good progress as a three-technique and a nose. He’s played some five, so they’re all growing and [Defensive Line Coach] Kacy [Rodgers] is doing a great job teaching them.”
As Arians mentioned, Vea’s versatility is sure to come in handy in Todd Bowles’ defense, but he should also have plenty of help around him, too. Our own David Harrison recently wrote a piece discussing the versatility of the defensive line as a whole, which will help Vea grow as well.
The Bucs’ latest free agent signing, Suh, should help too. He will allow Vea to move around the defensive line, something he is already used to doing after recording at least one snap at eight different positions, per PFF.
And don’t forget about Devin White, the Bucs’ fifth overall pick, or Lavonte David. Both players should be able to take care of the lateral parts of the field, allowing Vea and co. to impact the middle of the offensive line and force things outside.
That’s the plan for the defensive line, according to Arians. “We’re not where our defensive line grabs two guys,” he said when asked about the defensive line’s responsibilities after Tuesday’s OTAs. ”Get in the backfield and make a play. Make two guys block you, penetrating rather than standing on the line holding guys for linebackers.”
Vea’s greatest ability, however, may be availability in 2019. He missed all of training camp and the first three weeks of the season after he suffered a calf injury on the first day of camp, but that won’t stop Arians from unleashing the Kraken that is Vea.
“He should be able to go the whole time. He’s young, he’ll have his weight where it needs to be where he can play every down.”
With the help around him, as long he stays healthy, then Vea has all of the pieces he needs to take over this defense in 2019.
And what a better time to do it than now?