The Green Bay Packers finally got their offense going in Week 2, but they’ll have a massive challenge heading into Sunday going against a dominant Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense with an elite defensive tackle in Vita Vea.
The 27-year-old was a first-round pick back in 2018, coming into the league as an imposing presence at 6’4” and 347 pounds. He’s been a dominant force in the middle of Tampa Bay’s defense ever since and made his first Pro Bowl this past season. Vea is off to another hot start in 2022, already picking up 1.5 sacks through two games. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), he’s also produced six total pressures.
With Vea’s dominance as both a pass rusher and run stopper, the Packers have their hands full trying to contain him, especially with the inconsistency they’ve shown on the interior of their offensive line. However, there are still some ways that the Packers can try to keep Vea from wrecking their entire offensive game plan.
In the run game, head coach Matt LaFleur and offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich have worked in more gap run concepts, favoring them at times over the zone runs that they ran almost exclusively in previous years. One of their staple concepts through two weeks, the “pin and pull”, could help keep Vea away from Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon.
These runs to the outside give Green Bay’s running backs pulling blockers to lead the way, while down blocking on the edge to create a natural rushing lane. It forces backside defenders, especially linemen, to fly down the line of scrimmage in order to get to the ball, essentially taking them out of the play if the running backs can get to the second level quickly enough.
While this concept could help contain Vea, it doesn’t do much to try and contain Tampa Bay’s relentless linebackers, Devin White and Lavonte David. The two star linebackers have already combined for 14 defensive stops (h/t PFF), which are defined as a tackle resulting in a failure for the opposing offense. Packers fans have seen these two linebackers stuff run plays in previous years, so it’s hard to be too optimistic about the team’s chances of running for 200-plus yards for the second straight week.
The passing game is where the Packers might have their hands full with Vea, depending on who starts on the offensive line. Jake Hanson proved in the season opener that he’s not a starting-caliber guard, and the issues were two-fold against the Vikings when Hanson at guard forced the Packers to kick Royce Newman out to right tackle.
Newman looked much more comfortable moving back to right guard in Week 2, and Jon Runyan Jr. has been a solid left guard, but center Josh Myers may have a brutal matchup going against Vea.
So far, the numbers suggest that Myers has played well so far, even if the eye test disagrees at times. PFF has Myers responsible for just one pressure and zero sacks through two games. However, the film has showed a center who has felt uncomfortable at times taking on assignments, although that has mostly been in the running game.
Myers will need to have his best game of the year against Vea, but the Packers can also try to combo block the Pro Bowl defensive tackle with their guards if the Bucs don’t send additional pass rushers. That could be a real possibility this week, because the Vikings and Bears seemed hesitant about blitzing Aaron Rodgers, sending extra rushers at him on just five of his 67 dropbacks.
Vea isn’t the only player on Tampa’s defense whom the Packers need to worry about. However, if they can contain the star defensive tackle, the offense should have a bit more success moving down the field than the last time they played down in Tampa Bay.