FAB 2. Vea Is More Than A Nose Tackle

I had a brief conversation with Tampa Bay defensive line coach Brentson Buckner about rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea in the locker room following the Bucs’ 27-9 win over the San Francisco 49ers. Vea, the team’s first-round pick, had a breakout game with four tackles, including three tackles for loss and a sack.

Buckner praised Vea’s play, but said something that really troubled me.

Bucs DL coach Brentson Buckner and DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DL coach Brentson Buckner and DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

“He’s a nose guard and he made his plays, and that’s what it’s all about,” Buckner said. “We tell him to make the plays he’s capable of making. You don’t have to do anything spectacular. He didn’t take a magic pill to where his arms got longer and he is throwing guys away. He’s just in his gap and using his God-given ability to make plays.

“He’s not going to be an Aaron Donald-type of player. He’s going to be a big run-stopper who is capable of pressing the pocket when he gets his chance. All I expect from him is to play physical football and make everyone’s job better. And when he gets a chance to make his play, make his plays.”

The Big Takeaway
I agree with Buckner that Vea is not a Donald-type player. Very few NFL defensive tackles are. But I don’t think Vea is just a big run-stopper. I think he can be so much more.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht thinks so too, which is why he spent the 12th overall pick on Vea in this year’s draft. Licht wasn’t going to use such a high first-round pick on a run-stuffing nose tackle.

I like what Buckner has done with the defensive line this year, as his unit has recorded 31.5 of the team’s 37 sacks. Last year, under former defensive line coach Jay Hayes, the Bucs defensive line recorded 20 of the team’s 22 sacks, which were the fewest in the NFL. I’m just not a fan of Buckner calling Vea a run-stopping nose guard.

Vea was drafted to replace three-technique Gerald McCoy, which could very well happen as early as next year as the Bucs might move on from the six-time Pro Bowler, who will turn 31 in February, and his $13 million salary.

The Quotes That Matter
• “Well, Vita’s just improved across the board as he’s really gotten into his groove of playing,” Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter. “I thought Vita was our most dominant defensive lineman yesterday. I thought he consistently got knock-back on the line of scrimmage. I just think he’s gained confidence. I’d say the last five weeks, he’s improved every week. He’s kind of got things where he understands, he knows what to expect now. He’s cutting it loose. He’s not playing tentative. He’s not on the ground as much. Most of his pass-rush comes with power, although he is quicker than he might be thought of for a guy his size. When he’s got good rushers around him, like he does now, and he’s singled up – most people are going to single the nose [tackle] and slide to the three[-technique tackle] – that’s going to give him a consistent one-on-one. He had a good day yesterday pushing the pocket back. If we are playing with a lead more, that will show up more. When you’re playing from behind, that’s going to show up less.”

• “He does have some upside, but he’s not going to be a club-rip or swim kind of guy,” Buckner said. “But he’s going to push the pocket. He’s a big dude that can do that and when the QB steps up, do it. But the ceiling – he doesn’t have one because he’s so young. This kid should still be in college. As long as he continues to develop the sky is the limit for him.”

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo courtesy of Univ. of Washington
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo courtesy of Univ. of Washington

Stats That Count
• Vea had 9.5 sacks in his three years at Washington, including a career-high five sacks in 2016 and 3.5 sacks last year. Vea played nose tackle and defensive end in Washington’s 3-4 defensive scheme, and he wasn’t asked to penetrate much, so he doesn’t have much experience rushing the passer.

• In 12 games during his rookie season, Vea has three sacks along with 24 tackles with one game left. Legendary Hall of Famer Warren Sapp had 27 tackles and three sacks in 16 games as a rookie with eight starts in 1995. In 2010, McCoy had 27 tackles and three sacks in 13 starts, so Vea’s rookie stats stack up quite favorably with the best two defensive tackles in Tampa Bay history.

The Videos You Have To See
Vea records his first sack on the game in the first quarter, using brute force and great balance to gain leverage and then shed the block by Cowboys left guard Xavier Su’a-Filo to capture Dak Prescott. Unfortunately, Vea grabbed Prescott by the facemask, which negated the sack.


Su’a-Filo gets bull-rushed by Vea, who does a great job with his hands at the end to shed and bring down Prescott right before halftime for his first official sack of the game – and third of the season.

The FABulous Ending
I don’t think Vea will be a double-digit sacker in Tampa Bay, but I do think he’ll be able to register seven or eight sacks per season once he develops and gets into his prime. Chicago’s 6-foot-5, 332-pound Akiem Hicks, who plays defensive end in the Bears’ 3-4 scheme, has six sacks and three forced fumbles this year as a Pro Bowler after recording 8.5 sacks last year. Vea can be that type of player, and is fully capable of being a three-technique – not just a nose tackle.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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Pete Wood

Good article. Three quick thoughts.
1. I may have been wrong about Vea. He just might have been worth the draft pick.
2. Bucs should cut everybody on the list above to make more cap room. Except Brate. I like Brate. He’s worth the money and gives the Bucs a two pronged TE attack.
3. The real problem with this team is the Glazers. They need to hire a president of football operations, step back, and let that person run the team.

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cgmaster27

Great article scott. I would cut every guy you have on that list, although seeing the trade market for gerald would be better. Cutting these guys will definitely put us in a whole in spots, but you cant keep bodies just to have them. Fortunately, this is a very deep and good d tackle class. Pairing someone like ed Oliver with vea would be soooooo good. Although if we dont keep donavan, LT will have to be a priority. I’d franchise donavan and hibe him a one year prove it deal as you guys said on the podcast. I wouldnt… Read more »

Pete Wood

Would you cut Brate?

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cgmaster27

I love brate but hes not worth the money. Hes averaging about 2 catches a game without oj. Great teammate but would any other team pay him what we are? I doubt it.

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Bucfannomatter

Yup. Give the new front office more cap space. 😉

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BucWonder

I read that Brate was playing injured all year. This year wasn’t the real Brate. Yes, we may have overpaid a bit, but the 2 TE sets are a nice weapon to have. I’d keep Brate.

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Michael Prayon

Hope everyone had a Merry Christmas! This was a very good read. I think everyone should be cut except McCoy and Brate. I know McCoy’s stats have dipped but he’s still been effective and disruptive which does not show up on the stat sheet. I really want McCoy to stay and make the playoffs with the Bucs because it would be a damn shame if they cut him and he goes somewhere and goes to the playoffs with a different team and get a ring after leaving the Bucs. I think you also keep Brate to create mismatches for defenses… Read more »

fredster

Great article. I think everyone on the list needs to go. I worry a bit with McCoy not being here may hurt Vea and he may get doubled more. I guess JPP and others will have to step up to fill in. O get it from a financial standpoint it makes sense and as much as I respect Gerald as a Person and player I really would like to see a nasty edge on this defense and lone he just never brought. Pete always good to see when someone admits they were wrong. Shows character. So many posters on here… Read more »

76Buc

Send the Ravens $8 million and 6 draft choices and he’s ours.

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Skeuld1

So pass on Eric Reid because of his outspoken political view, but hire Mike Leach despite his outspoken political view? OK.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

See if I understand this article correctly the pewter boys want to keep Winston give him 21 million and get rid of half a dozen of the best players on the team to do that they also think it’s a good idea to put jpp Veta Vito and Carl Nassib to intimidate the offense into not running at them can only imagine how that will work out I next they will suggest Hugh Jackson for coach

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cgmaster27

Good players?! You think Grimes is good? How about mesean? You think gholston is worth the money? My goodness your idea of good in football is the opposite of anyone with a brain.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

Gerald McCoy Goldston DeSean Jackson to get rid of these players so you can keep a bust quarter back I’ve been having this argument with CJ master and Chef boho for 3 years and still here we are bottom of the league again same clowns defending Jameis Winston every year

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chefboho

Says the guy who wants to keep Desean because he’s “fast” you logic is as low as you knowledge of understanding football. You lose credibility when you literally talk about one thing and one thing only. I guess you know more than the Bucs brass when it comes to judging talent. Keep trying bob, one day you’ll move from couch coach to the corner with a nice tall yellow hat that says dunce on it.

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MizzouBucs24

Great article. Trying to trade McCoy or Brate is good idea not sure I would just cut them. Although McCoy should take a pay cut to stay. I have no idea what direction the Glazers will go when hiring a head coach. I just hope they are aggressive on both sides of the ball. I want to see an offense that has a weekly game plan to attack the opposing defense not just run the same old plays ever week. And a defense that plays aggressive and blitzes. Oh, and can we please draft some aggressive playmakers on defense and… Read more »

surferdudes

Buc ass, those half dozen players have won a total of 10 games in two years. Like it, or not the Bucs aren’t going to give up on a 25 year old Q.B. who was the 1st over all pick in the draft. They can move on from McCoy who’s been here 9 years, through many coaches, and hasn’t gotten close to helping turn this losing franchise around. With all due respect Scott, I’ll take Buckner’s view of Vea over yours, and Licht’s. Where do you come off thinking you know more then Buckner about defensive linemen? I hope the… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB

Gerald McCoy Goldston DeSean Jackson to get rid of these players so you can keep a bust quarter back I’ve been having this argument with CJ master and Chef boho for 3 years and still here we are bottom of the league again same clowns defending Jameis Winston every year and by the way that bust quarterback has only won six games in the last 2 years

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cgmaster27

Hey buc ass, list me one qb who has one with a bottom 5 defense and running game for 2 straight years? I’ll wait, but as usual when it comes to common sense questions, you hide.

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drdneast

I don’t see one player on that list any team would trade for at their current salary. Not even Brate and I like his play. Smith possible because $2 million for a serviceable G/C is a good bargain.Once again, that speaks volumes about Licht.

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FLBoyInDallas

Mike Leach would be an interesting hire. I wouldn’t be upset if he’s the guy. However, I do think Chris Petersen from the UW is an even more promising head coach with an outstanding offensive background as well as being a winner everywhere he’s been, and by a large margin. His overall record as a head coach is an amazing 139-32, and that’s while coaching two programs that aren’t exactly known as powerhouses in Boise State and the University of Washington. At both schools he took programs and instilled a very strong winning culture as well as consistent offensive success.… Read more »

Devasher

I kind of find it funny that Scott would be wary of Mike McCarthy (which he should be) despite his long and successful resume in GB given the past decade where Scott has gone after every coach in Tampa because there isn’t more success and has never shown an appetite to go after the people in charge of building the roster. So after 11 seasons of missing the playoffs with a revolving door of coaches we now consider that maybe a singular talent like Aaron Rodgers plays a bigger role than a specific play call or timeout the head coach… Read more »

surferdudes

No thanks to Leach as H.C.. He can get away with talking about college players like that, but that shit wouldn’t fly in a pro locker room. The clip of him talking about marriage was funny, but we’re looking for a H.C. Scott, not a lounge act. I really can’t believe Scott you’d want the Bucs to hire an old college coach who’s more of a comedian then he would be a leader of men. I’ll take an up, and comer Coordinator like Richard, LeFluer, or Beenimy.

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JohnGaltsGhost

Butt Leach, he’s a man he’s 40

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TheBaron70

And that’s the culture of losing. Losers can’t take honesty, neither can their fans. We lose because we think we have a roster of stars. Spoiler alert, we don’t. Do you think Leach we allow that BS to go on with Jackson. It’s complete nonsense. A guy like Jackson should have been called out in the media immediately for his crap. It would be refreshing in Tampa to have a football coach who actually didn’t hide things.

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Donovan Smith is a bottom tier left tackle and should paid like it. If someone wants to pay him like he is decent then let another team make that mistake.

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Move him to right tackle then pay him like a right tackle

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drdneast

Well said comments about MeShawn Jackson and Brett Grimes although my feelings about Grimes don’t run as strong because he did give us tow good years. If someone offered me $8 million to play one more year I would probably do it too even if my heart wasn’t in it. That falls on Licht. What galls me about Jackson is that for too long the media made it seem like it was Winston’s fault they weren’t connecting until on one TV broadcast a bright analyst observed that Winston didn’t seem to be having that problem with his other receivers. Then… Read more »

cgmaster27

Drd I’m glad someone else can see what those of us with a brain can see. If I were jameis id throw the ball at mesean feet every time. Late for meetings, sleeping in meetings, fighting coaches , and we still have people defending that cancer. If he was so good how come the eagles and Redskins couldnt wait to get rid of him? Hes a one trick pony that runs bad routes and has zero effort. Good riddance

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tog

I really like Leach as a coach and am a huge fan of his. I don’t know if he’d make a good NFL coach, but I hope so. He certainly would be fun to watch, I just don’t know if he has the leadership traits required. And can he hire a good staff? I would love to watch it though. It’s interesting that the Bucs can create cap room, but that also creates a lot of holes on a talent starved team. Not counting backups, you’re opening up a bunch of holes at RT, DT, NT, TE2 plus losing talent… Read more »

Jordan Chavez

Wow. Great article Scott. I don’t always agree with your views but I do always enjoy reading your material whether I agree with it or not and this article was one of the best I’ve ever read from you. Here are my few notes. 1. Vea is going to be a very good player for a long time. Like you’ve mentioned before, Vita hasn’t even played 5 full seasons of defensive line in his LIFE! He is just learning and will continue to get better. 2. I am a big UW fan. And even with saying that I would be… Read more »

stlbucsfan

This was a very good Fab 5. I agree with all of the cuts with exception of 2. I think we should simply re-structure GMCs contract. We need to improve the DL but not at the expense of creating a gaping hole. If he’s willing to re-structure which he should then keeping at around 7-8M makes a lot more sense. We still have JPP so going full throttle at a youth movement wont best utilize him. I agree that drafting someone like Oliver would be ideal but I still think a rotation of Vea, Oliver and GMC should be the… Read more »

Wausa

MIKE LEACH would be a fantastic hire for the Bucs. He knows what he’s doing and would bring a ton of excitement to the city.

If he is the Buc’s coach next year I think there is a great chance the Bucs have the number one ranked offense in the NFL next year.

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DT25

Good to see Cody Ford getting some love. Think a trade down and taking Ford might be my favorite option if Jonah, Bosa, and Quinnen Williams are off the board.

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Horse

I’m holding some comments until the game is over Sunday. I’m not listening to Koetter,Coaches, Licht, or well paid players; they all had their chances and chose something else. I’m ready to clean house. Yes we have quite a few holes to fill because the existing players weren’t very good.

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Bucfannomatter

Why? Because you are waiting on a bigger body of work?? Lmao. All of these losers need to go. Period. Now. Last week, actually.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

Keep Jameis and you will not get a top-level coach keep Jameis you’re going to get a second-tier coach in the same crap is going to happen again next year

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BucRy

Brate is the only player I would keep on that list, OJ has some injury issues so even though Brate may be a little overpaid, I still think he should be on the team.

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Captain Sly

I struggle with that one too, the problem is going to be the new HC’s offensive philosophy. How much value they give two TE sets. Brate may be a luxury we can’t afford. One thing I have not heard anyone talk about is hump making 5 mil I like Humphries but he’s not worth 5 mil if we’re talking about cutting all these players to create cap space.

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bucball1

Him an McCoy need to take a pay cut to stay we are not winning with all of these overpaid players clean house

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sunshineben

bucs need new gm,head coach and different qb. Stay tuned buc fans starting Monday as hopefully changes will be announced….Happy New Year to all !!

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Bucfannomatter

This RIDICULOUS Organization… Has won 10 games, in 2 years. TEN. ..IN TWO YEARS!!! The Saints won 13, this year. When can you say, we EVER won 13? Don’t care WHO STAYS. WHO GO’S. I root for ALL OF THEM GO! ALL. EVERY …SINGLE…ONE. IT’S freaking stupid. No one should survive the ridiculouslness that is Buccaneer football right now. Reset please.

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Bucfannomatter

Blow it UP!!!!! Blow it UP!!!! Blow it UP!!!! I manage the game better in my Madden video games, then Koetter has on most days, the last 3 years. When my girlfriend says to me “Why isn’t he calling a timeout”, and she’s RIGHT….. Time to say adios to these bunch of wanna be’s, and bring some people in here that can actually get the job done. Koetter was right earlier in the season…they should have ALLL…. BEEN FIRED. EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Just throwing some truth at you folks. Reset button. Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

Bucfannomatter

Any of you clowns that want to see another year of what you just saw…..???? Go buy yourselves some tickets. You’ll be the only ones there. Or better yet… Save the money, and poke yourselves in the eye with a fork. That will be the equivalent of oneore year of these chumps.

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Bucfannomatter

Cap crunch my a$$. Let them ALL…GO. Brate’s the only on there worth keeping anyway, and he’s nothing special.

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BUC-ASS-BOB

There’s going to be an opening for six to seven coaches come Monday and I don’t think they’re six or seven good coaches out there to be hired I don’t see any urgency out of the glaciers at this time to get a good coach so it’ll be interesting to see what happens

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Bucsfan1983

Keep McCoy, Brate and Anger. Re-sign Kwon, Humphries and Donovan(if he’ll move to G or RT, if not, don’t re-sign).

Scott I’m starting to real warm up to the idea of Mike Leach.

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DrT1066

Do a Belicheat and trade McCoy for a second and third while he still has some value. The draft is loaded with DTs
When the Bucs had a great defense and no offense they got Gruden.
When the Colts had a great offense and a bad defense they got Dungy.
The Bucs don’t need Leach. They need a defensive coach. Jim
Schwartz?

Dungy..

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76Buc

They didn’t have a great offense ever until now.

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EastEndBoy

The problem with moving on from all those guys is that we still need players to play the game….and we have massive holes at CB and OL. If we hire a competent GM who can draft us a solution to CB and one (or with the will of Zeus, two) new OLinemen, that leaves no real draft capital to replace all of these guys you want to cut. So, are the FAs better and cheaper than these guys…I doubt it.

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76Buc

Leach and Schiano are the same guy. Been down that road.

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76Buc

Change that. Leach is Schiano with a sense of humor.

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76Buc

Keep McCoy and Brate. Aloha to the rest.

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76Buc

I wouldn’t want to cover Jackson or Grimes (I would like to cover his Miko). I think we should hire the cheating chic in the photo for morale purposes.

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