In this article I will look at the third-year players and predict who will have a standout year. This process was made harder by the crazy offseason that it has been. Tampa Bay has had no team offseason training activities (OTAs) and they have not permitted players into the teams’ facilities.
2018 Draft Class
The focus of the 2018 draft was to fix holes in Tampa Bay’s defense. The team spent five of its eight draft picks on defensive players. Vita Vea, M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis, Jordan Whitehead, and Jack Cichy all came into their rookie year and made some impact. No one made a bigger impact than Vita Vea. He has become a force in the middle of the defense and commands double teams. As a result, it isolates players like Jason Pierre-Paul and Shaquil Barrett to make a run at the quarterback. In my opinion, this will be the draft class that starts something special on the defensive side of the ball. Tampa Bay added a guy with size and speed on the line and a guy who can become a lockdown corner.
Coming into the 2020 season I look for two players to turn a corner and become a top 10 player at their position; Vita Vea and Carlton Davis, Since coming into the league, both players have made improvements and Todd Bowles’ defensive scheme will help propel both to new heights.
Drafted with the 12th overall pick of the 2018 NFL draft, Vea was expected to come in a become the day one starter. A calf injury on the first day of padded practices caused Vea to miss the first three weeks of the season. Once he came back, Vea had three sacks, 21 solo tackles, and four tackles for loss. The stats for the 2019 season did not take a big jump, but Vea’s presence in the middle of the defense has made it easier for other players to make plays. Vea was a huge key in Shaquil Barrett leading the league in sacks. Lavonte David and Devin White can play free and attack the ball. His production may not always show up on the stat sheet, but if you inspect each game, many plays have been destroyed by Vea.
Drafted in the second round of the 2018 draft with the 63rd overall pick, Davis was immediately tossed into the fire and was a day one starter. In the beginning, he did not play well. The scheme of the defense did not suit his playing style. Davis was known as a press corner but was being asked to play more off the ball. As the season progressed, Davis turned a corner. The 2019 season was a slightly better season for Davis. After the install of a more aggressive defense, Carlton found a better fit into the defensive scheme. He finished the season with 59 tackles, 19 passes defended, and an interception. Year two in Bowles’ defense will be one to watch.
This year’s team will have a lot of work to do once training camp starts. I am looking at the work that was put in by the players on their own during this crazy offseason. Players have come into this year with a better understanding of what will be asked of them and will play faster sooner. I think they both are dominant players in the league and this year will be the first step in that process. Only time will tell, and I am looking forward to finding out.