Ndamukong Suh was the hot name this summer in Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers signed him to a one-year deal. The returns have been underwhelming.
About a month ago, an article was written that defensive tackle was in Tampa Bay to collect checks and was in cruise control. That article was met with a ton of hostility and tribalism from fans of the Buccaneers. ESPN’s Seth Walder mapped out the success of defensive tackles around the league using Next Gen Stats.
This graph by Walder shows two separate categories on the x and y axis: the x axis displays how often a defensive tackle wins off of the line of scrimmage. The x axis shows that Suh is winning against blockers at an average below the league average; many will say this is because Suh is being double teamed often.
However, the y axis of this graph is meant to show the rate at which a player is double teamed, and Suh is, in fact, being double teamed at a rate below the league average as well. Suh is not only seeing a majority of one-on-one blocks from his defensive tackle spot, but is also winning at a clip less than the league average of around eight and a half percent.
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While many people want to give credit to Suh, it is actually Vita Vea who is leading the charge at defensive tackle for the Buccaneers. By this same graph, Vea is being double teamed at a higher rate than Suh, and is also winning at a significantly higher rate for the pewter and red.
Suh is grading out at a 69.7 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), while Vea is grading out at a substantially higher 81.0 overall. A more polarizing name, Suh is getting the credit that Vea has always deserved in Tampa Bay.
Oh, and one other thing: defensive tackle touchdowns are absolutely meaningless. If Suh’s biggest contribution to the Buccaneers is scoring two defensive touchdowns, then that is an underwhelming season.
It is easy to have the league’s best run defense when teams realize it is much easier to win through the air. This defense is built backwards, as stopping the run is not a path towards victory in today’s NFL.
There is a reason Suh was not signed for a long while in the first place during last year’s free agency: nobody was willing to offer him a substantial amount of money; that was, until the Buccaneers came along and offered him nearly $10 million for the 2019 season. Thank goodness Suh is only on a one year deal before he is off chasing his next paycheck elsewhere.