The Bucs got some good news on Friday with regards to Vita Vea’s injured left knee injury. The diagnosis was an injury to the LCL (lateral collateral ligament), and not a torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) that would have cost last year’s first-round pick the entire 2019 campaign. An LCL sprain means Vea will not need surgery, and will only miss the entire preseason, as the recovery timetable is 4-8 weeks.

The Bucs haven’t ruled Vea out for the 2019 season opener against San Francisco on September 8, as that would fall within the four-week time range, which was the best-case scenario in terms of his recovery. Vea injured his knee in practice on Tuesday, August 6.

Bucs DT Vita Vea - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Vita Vea – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

The tricky part for Vea’s recovery timetable is that the Bucs play two games during the first week of the season with a Thursday night game at Carolina on September 12 – just four days after the season opener at home against the 49ers. Will he be ready for one of those games, both, or neither? Times will tell.

If Vea can’t play in the Bucs’ first game or two, what is the team’s plan at nose tackle? Veteran Beau Allen will start in between three-technique defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who will line up on the weak side, and defensive end Will Gholston, who will man the strong side in Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. Fifth-year veteran Rakeem Nunez-Roches will likely serve as the backup nose tackle to the start the season behind Allen if Vea can’t play.

The Bucs will likely keep at least six defensive linemen, and maybe seven on the initial 53-man roster if it looks like Vea may miss the first game or two of the regular season. Suh, Vea, Gholston and Allen are locks, and it looks like Nunez-Roches and Jeremiah Ledbetter, who is in his second season, are the front runners to fill out the depth chart based on their great starts to training camp and their solid play in the preseason opener at Pittsburgh. Both Nunez-Roches (6-2, 307) and Ledbetter (6-3, 295) have position versatility to play up and down the line of scrimmage, which helps their chances of making the team.

Bucs DT Stevie Tu'ikolovatu - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs DT Stevie Tu’ikolovatu – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

If the Bucs need to keep an extra defensive lineman for a week or two into the regular season in case Vea is inactive, it could be seventh-round pick Terry Beckner (6-4, 295) or Stevie Tu’ikolovatu, a seventh-round pick in 2017, who was just re-signed for depth in training camp and the preseason.

Tu’ikolovatu spent his first two years with the Bucs on injured reserve, but did go through the offseason with Tampa Bay before being released on May 31, so he does have an understanding of Bowles’ defensive system. There is no guarantee that Tu’ikolovatu makes the 53-man roster, though.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

29 COMMENTS

  1. At least we got Suh in there to anchor things down until Vea gets back. Scott my concern is what’s the plan going forward on the Offensive Line? That’s the weak link in this chain and with injuries to Liedtke what’s your thoughts on the Bucs going after Trent Williams? He would easily be the best lineman on this team and would allow us to get creative and shift some of these guys around.

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    Rating: +16. From 22 votes.
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    • I think Licht has put us in a place where going after Trent Williams is highly unlikely…

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  2. Vea is stronger and in great shape this year so hopefully that helps him recover faster but even though we are already down JPP, I hope they don’t rush him back only to lose him to injury for the rest of the year. Maybe if he’s ready Week 1, they only play him in limited action but if if he needs to sit the first 2 games or more then so be it. The middle of our season is so poorly scheduled, it’s gonna be hard enough to stay healthy during that stretch. Just make sure he’s good to go when he runs back out there please.

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    Rating: +16. From 16 votes.
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  3. This draft was loaded with D tackles but we used our high second round pick on Bunting, a corner from a small school. We could’ve used a quality O tackle, and Risner was sitting there when we picked Bunting also. Bunting looked lost Friday night, but that’s to be expected, he’s a corner from a small school. There was better line talent when we picked him. This has been the failure of Licht, ignoring the trenches for reaches at the top of the draft in the secondary. After six drafts, we’re loaded with marginal talent in the secondary, and thin across both lines of scrimmage. By the way, that’s where games are won, in the trenches. Our record under Licht shows this failing.

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    Rating: +17. From 43 votes.
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    • You really don’t know that this was mostly Arians draft?

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  4. Does anyone know why Tu’ikolovatu hasn’t been able to stick around? Is it talent, smarts, effort…what’s the deal with him?

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    • I bet he is too slow to react and at best is just an unmovable block in the middle of the road?

      Presently we have Suh , no Vea for probably 6 weeks at the minimum, and three other duds who have to “shit or get off the pot”; my guess is those three won’t even find the pot! The DL is just as bad; show me why they are starting material? We were in deep doo-doo when we switched to a 3-4 Defense and didn’t draft DL & OL in the first four picks; instead we did it ass backwards. Just my opinion.

      I’m tired of being negative, but the GM has to go; he is a problem! I’m hoping Arians moves to GM after this Season as part of our culture improvement. The man knows and understands the whole game of football and he would make a great GM. One of his disciples can be the HC

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      • I like this idea a lot, Horse. Perfect transition for Arians as he’s picked the coaching staff and has started the roster transformation. With so many guys on one year deals, that opens up more opportunities to make more changes this off season if the current group doesn’t pan out. Bowles might be the guy, but there are others in the current group that would be in the running.

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        Rating: +3. From 7 votes.
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      • You do know that Arians/ Bowles and company are calling the personnel shots, don’t you:? Let Licht be a sounding board, handle the cap, and do the negotiations. And let him do the deliveries for Arians. Many of these good HC’s don’t want the GM job… too much paperwork and such. Boring for a born to coach kind of guy.

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  5. I am just praying we don’t lose any other starters.

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  6. @1bucfanjeff

    Tui is near his talent ceiling but he doesn’t have experience yet. Some players catch on soon while other players take a long time. Only the coaching staff knows what progress Tui has made.

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    • Tu hasn’t shown much because he was only called back as a temp until Vea is up & ready.

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  7. Stevie T has had some injuries, and likely only used as a run stuffer

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  8. I agree that Meathead ignores the O’Line and insists on drafting small school guys. I for one am tired of him reaching for projected starters at positions they didnt play in college and ignoring guys like Risner who is starting at guard for the Broncos.

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  9. Surfer Dudes Licht got two players for that second pick; not just Bunting. The other pick was Mike Edwards who will be our starting Free Safety and has great leadership experience to call all the Defensive Calls for our DC. He is brilliant, instinctive, good tackler, and both fast and quick as well as a playmaker. He was the main reason Kentucky did so well last year and he will be an All Pro in the future. As for Bunting he was found by BA himself and BA made the decision on trading the second pick to get him and Edwards. Of course it will take awhile for Bunting to develop since he was from a small school but he is smart, quick, fast, and a good playmaker as he has shown in practice. It is just a matter of time before he is a starter. He has the good length to cover the best WRs in our league. Licht has already proved he brought this team plenty of diamonds in the rough which BA has already developed in short order, when all previous HCs and their staffs were too inept to do! It was bad Coaching and not a bad GM. Horse, I am very surprised you didn’t figure out the above truth before I did. You have always been very astute in the past along with a few others.

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    • No knock on Edwards, but to claim that “He was the main reason Kentucky did so well last year and he will be an All Pro in the future”, ignores a little guy named Josh Allen….just saying.

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    • I thought we got the two 3rds by trading our 3rd Rd pick to the LA Rams, not our 2nd..? Pretty sure they took Darrell Henderson too, who I wanted over any other RB. Also, while I think Edwards could be really good and thought he was a big reason Kentucky was so good on D (along with Josh Allen) I’d suggest we wait until he’s performed in a game until we anoint him a future All-Pro! That said, after he was drafted and I rewatched a couple Kentucky games from last year, I was very hopeful we’d just found a new starter at Safety, despite there being next to zero hype about him. Not sure why except his 40 wasn’t great. Good comment. Yours not mine..

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  10. As for Stevie T, if you watched him play NT for Southern Cal. he was a star player. However, he comes from a very poor background and was living in his van with his Wife when the Bucs got him the first time and he was in bad shape which then led to injuries when he tried to play. We have had bad position coaches including our conditioning coaches and they didn’t figure out he wasn’t in the fine condition that USC had him in when he was a star. We need to put him on a strength/conditioning regimen and bring him along slowly until he is fit to play. If we do he will pay big dividends for us. Roches is OK for an outside DE but he is not starter material and he is not going to have the weight and strength to be a decent NT to backup Beau Allen. Stevie T will have it all when in proper condition. If not conditioned properly he could be too easily injured. So far Beau Allen showed last year he only had backup not starter potential. Stevie T could replace him if handled properly which would give us cap relief.

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    Rating: +10. From 10 votes.
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  11. Chef and Fredster do not want answer question What happened with Devin White
    Answer he was fish out of water so they pulled him in a hurry to work more in practice
    on tech
    Devin Bush had 10 tackles in 1 half

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    Rating: -5. From 13 votes.
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  12. It might be time to consider having him play at a lower weight than 330-350lbs. Two lower leg injuries in one years time is not a coincidence. 350lbs will grind anyones knees and ankles into dust with the amount of running they have to do. He looks top heavy but I haven’t seen him up close. Even Suh is not that heavy, and I guarantee he’s stronger between the two.

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    Rating: +5. From 7 votes.
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  13. Vita Vea frame is not as big as Suh ligaments smaller , problem is 350 to heavy for frame and if he go to 300 he is to small to handle 350 pound O Lineman, It is problem that was not thought out before using 1st pick.
    Vea will most likely miss opener having not practiced or ran in 4 weeks.

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    Rating: -1. From 13 votes.
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    • I got Vita missing about 3 regular season games. well actually 5 if you count his effectiveness. He will gain weight on IR. And he will come back out of shape. It will take him 3 to 4 weeks just to get his bearings. Why the Bucs did not mentor him off season with his diet is a mystery to me. He came in at leat 50 pds to heavy. But..what do I know..I’m only a fan who has gotten use to us losing so much.

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  14. I think it’s really smart to call our draft picks “busts” after 15 plays in Pittsburgh. That shows a lot of intelligence and deep knowledge of football. It is now more than obvious that the biggest improvement in this football team is THE COACHING STAFF. It is also clear that the former regime had not a clue about “developing” players. Witness Cappa, who suddenly looks like an NFL guard. Can we at least wait until we play some real games that count before we regress into the normal Buccaneers pessimism. There was a lot to like Saturday night–and a lot to be concerned about.

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    Rating: +7. From 9 votes.
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  15. Deeznuts,
    Combine bench reps:
    Suh 32
    Vea 44

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    Rating: +2. From 4 votes.
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    • I wouldn’t get caught up in those numbers.
      Vea has shorter arms and 40 more pounds than suh (chest is much wider)….the distance vea has to press to complete each rep is significantly shorter than Suh. This is why a strong skinny guy with a flat chest will struggle on bench press…like Christian McCaffrey even though he’s strong as an ox. It can be broken down as, ‘Work = force * distance’.

      ‘how much do you bench’ is just a broscience measure of strength

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  16. Skipper it is the miracle of performance enhancement making a smaller man with smaller frame stronger
    than the biger man with bigger frame remember larger amounts fat and muscle on smaller frame is not as reliable
    old formula
    smaller man lifting more weight with smaller frame
    hence the injury factor
    which man is playing all the way thru camp every year
    which man has injuries
    congrats to Vea got big contract being dominate over little pac 10 lineman
    now he is under much more strain against bigger men something Licht never thought about !

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  17. Just rebutting Deeznuts claim that Suh is stronger. Obviously Suh thus far is more durable.

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  18. B-A-B

    I say you are flat out dead wrong regarding Devin White. Watch what BA is doing that is different from many NFL head coaches that you may be familiar with do. Look not only in contrast to what his immediate predecessors did here. Go find his most recent comments about various decision he made and what he was trying to do in this first preseason game. He has his own somewhat distinct approach to these things. He intentionally pulled most of his putative starters very quickly.

    Regarding Vea you may have something there. Go find some comments Roy Cummings made that kind of addresses the same issue(s) and what Vea may need to do for conditioning in the next few years.
    ________________
    Go Bucs!!!

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  19. I’m sorry guys. I don’t mean to be such a downer. Just…I fell for this SOOOO many times. Been a Buc fan since inception. Overoptimism with teams WAAAAAY better than this, and they still broke me heart, and gave me gas. Let’s think about the defense….the 3 best players on our d last year were David, Pierre Paul and Alexander. And even after Smith was let go, they were better, but still…not very good. Well none of those guys are in the lineup. How good do you REALLY think we are? Yes…we are undefeated like everyone else. But let’s be tempered in reality. Do I think Arians can fix it? Yup. But it ain’t gonna be this year. Hopefully he sticks around. This thing needs to be torn up and rebuilt by a GM that knows what the heck he’s doing. No matter how you move these pieces…it just ain’t good enough. Too many draft errors. I still like Vea. I don’t like drafting all those corners, when the o line is the worst in professional football. Hope Bruce has meds.

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