An improved Hargreaves prepares for best receivers

by Gary Shelton on August 4, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Hargreaves thinks his first year will help him this year./CARMEN MANDATO

Hargreaves thinks his first year will help him this year./CARMEN MANDATO

Friday, 4 a.m.

Julio Jones is coming.

So, too, is Odell Beckham.

Streaking downfield, there will be Julian Edelman and Jordy Nelson, Brandin Cooks and Larry Fitzgerald, Jarvis Landry and Kelvin Benjamin, Golden Tate and Greg Olson.

Standing between all of them and the goal line? Vernon Hargreaves III.

A year ago, Hargreaves wasn't that imposing. He was a rookie finding his way in one of the toughest positions in the NFL. No one in the league in the was targeted more. No one gave up as many as his 86 receptions. No one gave up as many as his 1,271 yards. He wasn't so much a cornerback; he was the guy who tackled the receiver after the catch.

Ah, but look at him now.

 Content beyond this point is for members only.

Already a member? To view the rest of this column, sign in using the handy "Sign In" button located in the upper right corner of the GarySheltonSports.com blog (it's at the far right of the navigation bar under Gary's photo)!

Not a member? It's easy to subscribe so you can view the rest of this column and all other premium content on GarySheltonSports.com.

Jackson's speed has made an impression so far./CARMEN MANDATO

Jackson's speed has made an impression so far./CARMEN MANDATO

This year's Vernon Hargreaves is older, wiser, better. He's ready to be more aggressive, he says. He's ready to be the bookend to Brent Grimes that the Bucs drafted.

"You’ve got to keep a cool head and you’ve just got to play football,” Hargreaves said. “You can’t really listen to too much, because if you listen to too much, you’ll start thinking too much. So, you’ve just got to play your own game, take what comes with it — take the wins, take the losses and you’ve got to learn. You’ve got to learn — that’s the biggest thing. Learn from your mistakes, learn from other people’s mistakes and you’ve got to grow from it.”

Evans looking for his fourth 1,000-yard season./CARMEN MANDATO

Evans looking for his fourth 1,000-yard season./CARMEN MANDATO

Growth. That's the key word here. That's the difference that teammates talk about seeing in Hargreaves.

"I have a whole 16 games under my belt now, so it’s a little bit easier now,” he said. “I understand the defense now, so I’m just playing faster.”

"It is an interesting position, cornerback. All of the rules are against you these days. A receiver can run a deep pattern and go suck oxygen for a series. A corner just lines up again.

"Like I said — playing a season,” Hargreaves said. “You know, I feel like a veteran now just from playing (those) 16 games. I’ve seen a lot. I got beat a lot. I made some plays, so now when the rookies come in I have something to say to them — a little here, a little there.

Rodgers figures to open the season as the starting running back./CARMEN MANDATO

Rodgers figures to open the season as the starting running back./CARMEN MANDATO

"That’s all I needed. Brent would tell me a little something here, a little something there — you can’t give the young guys too much stuff. They’re already thinking about a lot, they’ve already got a lot on their plate, so every time if I see something that I was doing maybe, I’ll give them a little pointer. It’s just little bits of information here and there.”

"It was tough for me last year, you know,” Hargreaves said. “Just getting adjusted to the speed. There are great players in the league — as everybody knows — but now that I’ve played a whole season, I’m more comfortable.”

Hargreaves likes having Grimes as a mentor.

"It’s great,” Hargreaves said. “He’s great. I’ve been watching Brent since I was in 10th grade. He’s always been my favorite and it’s cool to play with him. He’s a guy that doesn’t say much — you’ve just got to watch him. You’ve just got to watch how he practices, watch the things he does, watch how he takes care of his body and that’s what I’ve been doing. I’m trying to be my best Brent Grimes if that makes any sense (laughs).”

Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter boils the difference in Hargreaves down to a word.

"Confidence,” Koetter said. "Vernon's playing a lot more aggressive, which we asked

Punter Bryan Anger was a hidden weapon for the Bus last season./CARMEN MANDATO

Punter Bryan Anger was a hidden weapon for the Bus last season./CARMEN MANDATO

him to do. He just seems lighter on his feet; I know he's lost a little bit of weight. He's confident and those corners have got to be confident. They've got to have short memories. Brent Grimes is playing lights-out right now and Vernon's right on his heels."

Hargreaves thinks he's up against good competition at the Bucs' training camp. Especially DeSean Jackson.

"He’s fast – really fast (laughs),” Hargreaves said. “I mean, he’s a great player. It’s his 10th year in the league. You see him every year – he makes big plays, he makes splash plays and that’s what he does. Nothing has changed about him. He is dynamic. He’s a play-maker. I’m excited to watch him go against other DBs for once.”

Then there is quarterback Jameis Winston.

Winston has a lot of weapons with Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

Winston has a lot of weapons with Bucs./CARMEN MANDATO

"Man, our offense is tough,” Hargreaves said. “We have one of the best quarterbacks in the game. I love practicing against him. He’s going to make you better. It’s almost like he never has an off day. For us, we try to be up to their level. They’ve still got some new guys, some young guys, that they’re putting in and starting to learn the offense. New guys like D-Jack (Jackson) – still trying to learn the offense, still trying to learn the verbiage – but like I said we are competing against them, we are competing against the best quarterback we are going to see and he gets us better every day.”

A year ago, the Bucs' pass defense needed improvement at the start of the year. Hargreaves was a rookie, and the safeties were slow to adjust to the scheme. With new safeties and a more experienced Hargreaves, it could be tougher for opponents to throw the ball this year.

"We’ve still got to get better,” Hargreaves said. “We know it now, but we’ve got to perfect it. We’ve got to perfect our signals and we’ve got to keep talking, keep communicating every period, all day, throughout practice – when we are hot, when we are tired, when we don’t feel like practicing, when we don’t feel like talking. That’s the part we’re are trying to improve on right now.”

Rookie Chris Godwin is off to a good start./CARMEN MANDATO

Rookie Chris Godwin is off to a good start./CARMEN MANDATO

Share with:Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Facebook0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone

{ 0 comments… add one now }

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: