Hargreaves prepared to make strides in Year Two

by Gary Shelton on June 15, 2017 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Hargreaves hopes to make strikes in his second season./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hargreaves hopes to make strikes in his second season./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Thursday, 1 a.m.

They are coming. Soon, they will be going.

They are the receivers of the NFC South and, if they have their way, their offenses will be as impressive as those of the Bucs.

Imagine looking at it from the back end. Julio Jones is running deep and Michael Thomas is going across the middle and Kelvin Benjamin is going up for a catch. There is Willie Snead and Mohamed Sanu and Greg Olson and Christian McCaffery. Every play can go wrong. Every pass can mean points.

Vernon Hargreaves knows. He is one of the hunted, the cornerbacks of the NFL.

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Hargreaves works out before the game./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Hargreaves works out before the game./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Is Hargreaves good enough?

We'll see.

A year ago, Hargreaves was not. Oh, the Bucs seemed fairly satisfied with their former No. 1 draft pick, but the numbers wonder why.

A year ago, opposing quarterbacks hit 80 of 113 targets, an alarming 70.9 completion percentage. He allowed 1,069 yards in passes, the most in the league. He intercepted only one pass all season.

Sure, some of Hargreaves' lack of success was his youth, and part of it was that opponents were determined to stay away from Brett Grimes on the other side. But the Bucs are looking for Hargreaves to be more aggressive this year and to make more plays.

“Just getting more comfortable, that’s all it was,” Hargreaves said Wednesday. “Last year, [I was] just getting used to it, getting used to this game speed, better receivers, better players, better quarterbacks. Now I’m little bit more comfortable. I’m starting to feel myself a little bit more now and hopefully I can just continue to get better.

“It’s just (that) I know what to work on now. I’ve seen it, I’ve played a year, so like I said, just getting more comfortable now and just continuing to work on my game.”

As for the competition, well, that's just a fact of life. Of the 25 receivers who had 1,000 yards last year, the Bucs play 10 of them.

Besides the top-flight receivers of the NFC South, the Bucs also face Julian Edelman of the Patriots, Jordy Nelson of the Packers, Jarvis Landry of the Dolphins, Larry Fitzgerald of the Cardinals, Golden Tate of the Lions and Brandin Cooks of the Patriots.

“It just showed me what it’s like playing in this league. That’s what you expect. All of the receivers are top-notch. You’ve got to be on your game every game.”

Bucs' coach Dirk Koetter said that Hargreaves has had a good off-season.

“From the start of OTAs through now, 12 practices, Vernon has done a very nice job of playing more aggressive and trying to take the ball away,” Koetter said. “He’s answered the bell on that. Obviously he’s got to carry it over to the season, but (we’re) very pleased with what he’s doing.”

Hargreaves says he has learned much from playing with Grimes, the Bucs' veteran cornerback.

“He’s my favorite player,” Hargreaves said. “He’s been my favorite player since high school. Getting to play with him is great. Watching some of the things that he does, some of the things that he does you can’t duplicate because only he can do those things. But he’s a great player. He’s played in this what 11 years? This is his 11th year so you know just picking up on the little things that he does.

“He has always been my favorite. He never got attention, never gets attention, never gets any love. His play speaks for itself.”

Koetter said the relationship wasn't always verbal.

"Well, because they’re always lined up across from each other, to be honest with you, I don’t really see them talking that much,” Koetter said. “I’m sure they’re talking more in meetings when I’m not around. But Brent Grimes is just a smart football player. The kid gets football. When someone in here talked to him this week — there’s been a couple other articles written about Brent Grimes – I’m asking Brent questions in practice, just about how he sees things. He gets football. That’s a good guy for Vernon to be learning from. Vernon was a first-round pick. Vernon’s a good football player. He just needs the experience that Brent already has and I’m quite sure that Brent’s willing to share.

Hargreaves said it wasn't a problem to be more aggressive and keep his confidence at the same time.

“It’s not hard at all,” Hargreaves said. “It’s fun. We’ve got a bunch of great guys on defense that I love playing with. We’re just coming out here having fun. However it plays out, that’s how it plays out.”


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