Before it’s cast off as an overreaction, let’s take a minute to address the actual comparisons. As there may be closer comparison than one may initially think. Let’s take a look.
During Sapp’s rookie season in 1995, he collected 3 sacks, forced 1 fumble and had 27 total tackles (playing in all 16 games). 2018 first round pick Vita Vea had a very similar stat line. Last season he also had 3 sacks, piled up 28 total tackles and notched 4 of those tackles for losses. Vea also played in 3 fewer games than Sapp did his rookie year.
The most obvious similarity between the two is their aggressiveness in which they play with. What separates Vea from Sapp, however, is his brute strength. Vita was consistently seen finishing plays by tossing or straight bull-rushing a player into the ground. His trending arrow can only go up from here.
While Sapp checks in at 6’2” 305 lbs, Vea was on the bigger end of the DT scale at 347 lbs. That was before slimming down to 330 lbs this offseason. Surprisingly though, for his size, Vita plays with much more nimble feet and twitch off the line then his weight insinuates. He was of course recruited as a high-school RUNNING back. Take a look.
Video credit: MaxPreps
Derrick Brooks & Devin White
Linebacker on the other hand is a highly regarded position in Tampa as it pertains to some of the greats. Derrick Brooks was the face of, arguably, the best defense in NFL history. Now 5th overall pick Devin White comes to Tampa, not to prove he’s better than Brooks, but to blaze his own path to Bucs immortality. The hard-earned way. He even seems to carry himself in the same cool, collected manner Brooks did on and off the field.
Video credit: SimplyAS10
Looking at Brooks stats from his rookie year, he recorded 79 total tackles, 1 sack and 2 FF’s in 16 games before blowing up in his sophomore season. Playing at a speedy 6’0” 235 lbs, Brooks was your every down linebacker who could cover sideline to sideline and showed up every game. Devin White, drafted just a month ago, is perhaps the best all-around LB prospect we’ve seen in a decade. Built similarly to Brooks in stature, 6’1” 240 lbs, White possesses unnatural speed (4.42 40 yard dash) for his position and the size to bring the punch. What may separate White from Brooks, though, is his ability to be a factor in the pass rush. Add in the fact that he’s was one of the best off ball LB’s in the SEC last year and you have a recipe for a future Canton recipient.
Both Vea and White have enormous talent coupled with youth and room for maturation. They have veterans to learn from and a core group of players where they can both thrive in Todd Bowles defense. Did the Bucs find their new Brooks and Sapp? Who knows. Hopefully, though, they’ve found their next White and Vea. And by the time these two retire, it should definitely mean something.
Written by: Joshua Omoregie