The Bucs predict even greater issues from the staff’s greatest participant this 12 months.
After giving nostril deal with Vita Vea a five-year contract extension that may pay him a mean of $17.775 million per 12 months, Tampa Bay might want to see extra from him in 2022.
And extra of him.
Vea performed in all however one recreation final 12 months and logged 608 snaps on protection. Tampa Bay’s protection noticed the sphere for a complete of 1,093 snaps. Which means Vea performed 55.6% of downs final 12 months.
By comparability, three-technique defensive deal with Ndamukong Suh performed 718 snaps for the Bucs in 2021. Suh, who didn’t miss any video games, performed almost 66% of the downs on protection at age 34.
With Tampa Bay possible shifting on from Suh and Vea getting a hefty elevate, the Bucs wish to see him on the sphere extra typically in 2022.
“With Vita final 12 months, I wish to say he was averaging wherever between 42 to 50 snaps a recreation,” Bucs co-defensive coordinator and defensive position coach Kacy Rodgers mentioned. “That’s actually type of the place it must be. We’re on him about probably getting his situation somewhat higher so he can play extra. A man like that may be so impactful. We wish him on the sphere as a lot as we are able to.”
Rodgers’ numbers have been off. Vea averaged almost 36 snaps per recreation final 12 months, whereas Tampa Bay’s protection averaged 64 performs per recreation. In truth, Vea performed 40 snaps or extra in simply 5 video games within the 2021 season.
Essentially the most snaps Vea performed was 61 at New Orleans in Week 8. The Bucs protection was on the sphere for 76 snaps that recreation, and Vea performed 80% of them.
That recreation actually skewed his enjoying time share. More often than not, Vea was enjoying lower than half of the staff’s snaps.
Within the playoffs, Vea was solely on the sphere for 28 of Tampa Bay’s 66 snaps towards Philadelphia (42.4%) and 34 of the 72 snaps towards Los Angeles (47.2%). In these large video games, the Bucs’ large man ought to be seeing the sphere for nearer to two-thirds of the protection’s snaps.
Vea is able to enjoying extra downs. He established a profession excessive with 749 snaps in the course of the 2019 season, enjoying in all 16 video games. But, conditioning has been a problem with the massive, 347-pound defensive deal with.
Final 12 months throughout coaching camp, former head coach Bruce Arians publicly acknowledged that Vea wanted to shed weight previous to the beginning of the 2021 marketing campaign. In his Tuesday press convention, Rodgers mentioned the staff’s coaches need Vea to be in higher situation this fall.
Tampa Bay’s co-defensive coordinator additionally mentioned that Vea should step up in a management position this season in Suh’s absence.
“Inside, it could be Vita – he must step up and assume the position, which he ought to,” Rodgers mentioned. “He involves work every single day, he’s right here and is aware of what now we have to do and get executed. By attrition, Vita ought to step up into the position up entrance.”
The Bucs want Vea to be extra of a vocal chief, and one of the best place for that to occur is on the sphere with extra enjoying time. When he’s on the sphere, Vea could be very impactful, evidenced by a three-tackle, two-sack efficiency in a win at Atlanta in Week 12 final 12 months.
Vea completed the season with a career-high 4 sacks, which aided his Professional Bowl choice. Rodgers believes he ought to double that quantity in 2022.
“I give him a tough time as a result of I’m going into my twentieth season teaching on this league – plenty of them spent up entrance – and he’s in all probability the largest man that performs third down within the historical past of the NFL,” Rodgers mentioned. “So, the factor is, with  sacks – together with his expertise stage, it ought to have simply been eight. As we went by means of our cut-ups some within the offseason and speaking with him, there are some issues we’ve bought to enhance, however 4.0 [sacks] ought to be a baseline. He ought to get greater than that as a result of we’re leaving him on the market on third down. He has the expertise to do it.”
Following a Professional Bowl berth and a giant pay elevate, extra is predicted from Vea in 2022.
“He was going actually good the 12 months earlier than after which he got here again for the playoff run,” Rodgers mentioned of Vea. “Then, the way in which he performed this previous 12 months, he was getting increasingly assured because the season went on. He was nonetheless favoring [his ankle] some and knocking the rust off, however because the season completed, I assumed he was enjoying very well. Now the factor with him, he’s bought to – and I’m harping on him – he’s the largest man on the sphere … however he’s bought to play like that on a regular basis.”