TAMPA – Coming off a rookie season in which they watched him intercept just one pass and break up only nine otherd, the Buccaneers have challenged cornerback Vernon Hargreaves to be more aggressive this year.
It appears as though he’s heard their request loud and clear.
Hargreaves intercepted two passes during the first three days of organized team activities (OTAs) last week to earn some praise from Bucs coach Dirk Koetter.
“Yeah, we challenged Vernon to take the ball away more this year and he’s done that these first couple of days,’’ Koetter said at the end of the Bucs Thursday workout at One Buc Place.
If Hargreaves is as popular with opposing quarterbacks as he was a year ago he could put together a breakout season. He was, after all, the most targeted cornerback in the league last year.
Hargreaves was targeted 127 times last year and his lack of aggression proved to be a bit of an issue as he allowed 86 receptions (the most in the league among cornerbacks) for 1,271 yards (also most in the league).
Now, it must be noted that the Hargreaves was not eased into the position in any way. He regularly took on the opponent’s top targets, including Julio Jones of the Falcons and Amari Cooper of the Raiders.
But even when Hargreaves wasn’t taking on the league’s best receivers, he was still picked on repeatedly by opposing quarterbacks, in part because he often gave receivers too much of a cushion.
“Yeah, I think he just needs to have a better understanding and awareness of situations,’’ Bucs defensive coordinator Mike Smith said of Hargreaves. “At the corner position you’ve got to realize where you are on the field and what the down and distance is. (For example), when we’re down in the red zone, we’ve got less to defend, so we’ve got to have tighter coverage.
“Now, we don’t always want to be paint by numbers as a football team. Just because the rule says that you line up 8 yards (off the line of scrimmage), when you’re inside the 15-yard line we don’t want you lining up at 8 yards off the line. We want you to line up at half that distance. So there are just certain things that he’ll get a better understanding of.’’