The Tampa Bay Buccaneers could potentially return an important defensive starter for their matchup against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC Championship game. On Monday, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Buccaneers are designating defensive tackle Vita Vea to return from injured reserve. He will begin practicing on Wednesday, and he could be activated for Sunday's game if all goes according to plan. According to Stroud, Vea has been taking part in some "intense workouts," and the Buccaneers believe there is a very good chance he will be able to suit up this weekend.
Vea suffered a broken ankle during the Buccaneers' Week 5 loss to the Chicago Bears. He was off to a fantastic start to the 2020 season, with two sacks, three tackles for loss and three quarterback hits from his position along the interior defensive line. The former No. 12 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft ranked 14th through four weeks among interior defensive linemen in Weighted Overall Win Rating, an adjusted version of Pro Football Focus' pressures and run stops per snap which accounts for the greater importance of pass-rushing in comparison to run defense. In 34 career games with the Bucs, Vea has recorded 73 combined tackles, 7.5 sacks and 19 quarterback hits.
Tampa Bay's defense is coming off of an incredible performance during its 30-20 win over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round. They held Drew Brees to just 134 passing yards, picked him off three times and forced four total turnovers. Containing Aaron Jones and putting pressure on Aaron Rodgers will be paramount if the Buccaneers want a chance to advance to Super Bowl LV, and the potential return of Vea will surely help with that.