The Buccaneers suffered a difficult loss at the hands of the Bears last night, and Tampa will now have to forge ahead without one of its defensive stalwarts. Head coach Bruce Arians announced this morning that defensive tackle Vita Vea suffered a broken leg in the defeat and is done for the year (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times).
The 2018 first-round selection missed three games due to injury during his rookie campaign, but he rebounded to play in (and start) all 16 of the Bucs’ contests last year. Tampa has fielded one of the strongest run defenses in the league in 2020, and Vea is a big reason for the club’s success in that regard. He also showed improved chops at getting to the quarterback, as he posted two sacks in his 4+ games this season (including one last night before the ankle injury).
Contractually, it’s an especially unfortunate blow. Vea will be eligible for an extension after the season, and if he had played a full slate at the level he had displayed through the first month, he might have been able to land a lucrative re-up. Instead, the Bucs will likely wait for him to prove himself again in 2021 before considering a new deal.
In Vea’s absence, Will Gholston and Rakeem Nunez-Roaches will likely take on larger roles. Greg Auman of The Athletic says that sixth-round rookie Khalil Davis should also see himself activated on game days (Twitter link).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.