Significance of Vita Vea’s Injury for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Defensive lineman Vita Vea
GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 30: Defensive lineman Vita Vea /

2018 first-round pick Vita Vea has already hit a roadblock. After only a handful of NFL practices under his belt, Vea left the field on a cart. How will this impact the Buccaneers as the season approaches?

The Buccaneers defensive line has been a disaster for the past few seasons. Tampa has been unable to pressure the quarterback or stop the run. The Buccaneers revamped their defensive line in free agency adding, Jason Pierre Paul, Vinny Curry, Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein.

After all the additions in free agency, the Buccaneers surprised a lot of fans by selecting Vita Vea, from Washington with the 12th pick after trading down with the Buffalo Bills. Many expected the Bucs to go safety, Derwin James, or reach on a running back like Derrius Guice, but they went with more beef along the defensive line.

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After the draft, there were reports that Vea was the fourth highest graded player on the Buccaneers draft board, likely behind Saquon Barkley, Bradley  Chubb and Quentin Nelson.

The former Huskie dominated the combine, putting up the second most reps of 225 pounds in the bench press with 41 and surprised some people running a 5.1 at 350 pounds. His potential has Bucs fans including myself drooling over what he could do next to Gerald McCoy and the rest of the line.

With the additions, the Bucs did lose a good locker room guy in Clinton McDonald but did manage to dump serious dead weight with the release of Chris Baker. Baker was brought in before last season in hopes to wreak havoc next to McCoy but even playing next to the All-Pro tackle, his production was minuscule. The Buccaneers were freed of his salary and he definitely will not be missed.

Vea’s injury greatly dampens the expectations for the much improved defensive line. The injury looked much worse after he limped off the field and was carted to the locker room. Many people thought it was a torn achilles, which would’ve ended his rookie season before it even began. However, it has been reported that it is only a calf strain.

Some fans (including myself) got scared seeing Vea in a walking boot and on a scooter. Thankfully, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine, Vea will not miss any regular season action.

While it’s good news Vea is only out for a handful of weeks, he will be missing a ton of time to learn the defensive system. Missing out on training camp for any player is difficult and even harder for a rookie. The fact that Vita Vea won’t be able to get out there with the team and practice is definitely going to stunt his development.

Hopefully, he stays close to defensive line coach Brentson Buckner as much as possible over the next six weeks to pick his brain.

The other reason this is not a good injury for Vea is that his biggest weakness is his conditioning. At 350 pounds Vea is a hefty load for anybody to handle but the NFL offensive linemen are the best of the best. He needs to add an explosiveness that he was able to show in college, but that was in the Pac-12, not the NFL.

Hopefully, Allen and Unrein prove their worth this preseason, so if Vea misses any time Tampa Bay won’t be significantly worse.

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Do you think Vita Vea will be ready for Week 1 against New Orleans? Do you think this injury will keep him from significant playing time this season? Sound off on Twitter and Facebook.