The Buccaneers have one of the best defensive lines in the entire NFL. Vita Vea and Ndamukong Suh play a huge role in keeping this unit anchored.
‘Twas a time when many of us Buccaneers fans felt we got the best of the Gerald McCoy v Ndamukong Suh draft in 2010. Two highly touted D linemen coming out of college and, in general, rated almost exactly the same.
The Buccaneers had the number four choice in the 2010 draft. The Detroit Lions drafted third and selected Suh.
There was much to do and ballyhoo about which of those two defensive linemen was the better player. At the time, Suh had a nasty reputation coming out of college, and a lot of Bucs fans silently felt that their team came off the better in the deal. And, if we look at their stats over the past 10 years, Suh has 64.5 sacks compared to McCoy’s 59.5. Not too much to quibble over.
However, having watched McCoy play over the years and seeing Suh for two seasons, most fans would have to admit that there is a huge difference in their style of play. McCoy always comes across as controlled and doing those things he needs to do. Suh seems to bring a bigger attitude and more of a mauling style of play. Both, obviously, can get things done. But Suh seems to be just a tiny bit better at stuffing the run.
Next season, the Bucs have their eyes set on stepping up to the level of the Bucs D from 2002. It’s a trick to do so, given that that Buccaneers team has already put three players into Canton, and will likely get at least one more with Ronde Barber. One other player from that defense certainly deserves to be in the hall, but for some reason, the HOF voters don’t appear to like Simeon Rice.
Time will tell.
To meet that mark, the Bucs are going to have to be even better against the run. In order to do that, they need an even more powerful defensive line. And that, right there, is where Vita Vea steps in.
Vea is an enormous defensive tackle. In terms of size and play, he immediately brings to mind a defensive lineman from the Baltimore Ravens Super Bowl team, Tony Siragusa. Goose, as he was known, had the ability to shut down a seemingly open running lane simply by sticking out his right arm. It’s the kind of stop that used to be called a clothesline. But the ability to close off running lanes is pretty much where the comparison ends. While Goose was pretty big on the line, he is dwarfed by Vea.
Tale of the tape: Siragusa comes in at 6’3”, 340; Vea comes in at 6’4”, and 347 pounds. But the differences show up when you start looking at athleticism.
Siragusa was great at closing the gaps and limiting running backs to minimal gains. Vea can also do those things, and in addition, has shown the ability to cover receivers and rundown players in the flat and out to the side lines. When he hangs up the spikes, we can expect to see where Vea’s NFL stats will surpass those of Siragusa.
So what’s the point?
The point is that when you put the likes of Vea and Suh on the defensive line, they completely clog up the middle. No running back is going to feast on “running betwixt the tackles”, in fact, they may only get a fried baloney sandwich for their efforts.
Add to that the fact that most teams are going to have to add blockers or chip either one or both of them, and that opens things up for the edge rushers: Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barret are enough to handle. Don’t forget what they did to Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl.
And, when you add in how well Anthony Nelson has been playing in camp, and the way Joe Tryon appears to be fitting in, the Buccaneers may just be on the way to meeting, and perhaps exceeding, the standard set by Warren Sapp and crew.
Sure, we’re a long way from the Super Bowl, no less penciling in potential future Hall of Famers, but for all good Bucs fans there has to be some excitement to see that front seven in action this season. Yes, we will get a look at them in the preseason, but we will really know what we got when we face off with the Dallas Cowboys in week one.