Cowboys Draft: It’s time to stop calling Vita Vea a 1-technique

It’s clear the Dallas Cowboys do not consider Washington defensive tackle, Vita Vea, merely a 1-technique, so isn’t it time the rest of us get on board?

It’s speculation season for Cowboys Nation. With the draft only a few weeks away, rumors are running rampant, debates are raging, and in-fighting is unavoidable. One player who’s sparked boatloads of debate all offseason is Vita Vea.

Will the Cowboys consider him or ignore him? Is he a pipedream or a smokescreen? Will the Dallas Cowboys finally abandon their philosophy of avoiding nose tackles early in the draft or will they continue their course?

Executive vice president Stephen Jones seemingly answered some of these questions when he offered this in Feburary:

“If you’re talking about a pure nose, I don’t see that changing for us. I think we just feel like in Rod’s system that we can get the job done without a big, first-round nose, if that’s all he really is.”

Suddenly, my early January mock draft, which matched Vea with the Cowboys at pick 19, looked to be misguided. Yet me, and many others, continued our study of the former Husky. The more we saw, the more we liked. And the more many of us were convinced he would upgrade the starting defensive line in a way no one else can.

Admittedly, the battle seemed futile, though. Until, of course, his name popped up on the list of 30 visitors. Since NFL teams are restricted to only host 30 official visits, these cannot be taken lightly. The Cowboys have a history of pulling roughly half of their draft picks from players they had in for a visit.

Now, Vita Vea as a Dallas Cowboy, no longer seems like fantasy. It’s a distinct possibility. And diving deeper into some of Stephen Jones helped explain it:

“Now, some of these guys might be more than a nose than you think. They could have some under tackle to them and you’re certainly looking at them if that’s the case. Obviously that under tackle position is a big one for us.”

 Vita Vea, 6’4” 347lbs, may look like the prototypical 1-technique defensive tackle (nose), but he sure doesn’t have the prototypical skills of one. Vea is much more than a plugger – he’s a penetrator. The kind of rushman Rod Marinelli likes. He’s able to stand up against the run but he’s also quick and powerful enough to crash the backfield and provide splash plays.

It’s not that Vita Vea wouldn’t fill the role of 1-tech if the Cowboys were to draft him. But he’s clearly more than than that and to just call him a 1-tech can be pretty misleading.

The Cowboys don’t invite players they aren’t interested in. Smokescreens come later and usually aren’t part of this process. The visits are too valuable to waste on smokescreens. Every player invited for a visit is coming because the Cowboys see them as a viable option.

NDTscouting had this to say about him:

“Every single one of Vea’s plus traits involve moving forward in a penetration role…(his)…best role would be one where he’s tasked with playing into a single gap as a penetration player and given the opportunity to stunt and move for mismatches on passing downs.”

That right there sounds exactly what Rod Marinelli is looking for in a defensive tackle. It’s not often you can find a 350lbs man quick enough to 1-gap and nimble enough to stunt and game. Vita Vea may be a mismatch nightmare if he’s used to his fullest.

It’s clear calling Vita Vea a 1-tech is a little misleading. Sure he’ll probably play some 1-tech in the NFL but it’s not a very accurate description of who he is. Vita Vea is a 3-tech stuck in the body of a 1-tech. He’s a very real option for the Cowboys at pick 19 because of that.

Note: The 1-tech DT is a player who is typically charged with 2-gapping. He clogs the middle, occupies blockers, and keeps his linebackers free to make plays behind him. But Rod Marinelli often calls on his rushmen to 1-gap and that’s something Vita Vea can do that other nose tackles cannot.