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Vita Vea is the key to the Bucs defense

Buccaneers Wire logo Buccaneers Wire 9/20/2019 Jason Kanno
a man wearing a red hat: USA TODAY © USA TODAY USA TODAY

The history of the Bucs' defensive pedigrees tend to lead back to defensive linemen. Warren Sapp, Lee Roy Selmon, Gerald McCoy-they were the best and most important players on their defensive squads. It appears they will be succeeded by 2018 first-round pick Vita Vea who is rapidly becoming the centerpiece of Tampa Bay's defense.

Just two games into the 2019 season, Vea is one of the best, if not the best, player on the Bucs' revitalized defense. After a dominant performance on Thursday Night Football over the Carolina Panthers where Cam Newton and company went 0-for-3 in the red zone and otherwise failed to find the endzone, Vea was the Bucs' highest graded player on defense by Pro Football Focus:

The majority of Vea's impact does not appear on the stat sheet. Rather, it explodes at the line of scrimmage where the 347-pound defensive tackle either occupies double-teams or puts solo linemen on their heels and into the laps of the quarterback. Linebacker Shaq Barrett doesn't get three sacks without Vea crowding and disrupting the Panthers' offensive line.

In defensive coordinator Todd Bowles' scheme, Vea moves all over the line, from seven- to five- to three- to zero-technique. He may straight up rush the line or stunt, creating opportunities for blitzing linebackers and defensive backs. With his strength, blockers cannot afford to lose track of trajectory, dictating everything from a running back's cuts to a quarterback's footwork.

The Bucs defense will go where Vea goes this season. As long as he is healthy and on the field, Tampa Bay can expect more defensive performances like they had against the Panthers.

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