TAMPA – The Buccaneers have never said it in quite this way, but there was an aspect of rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III play last year that they had to be a little disappointed in.
Hargreaves came out of the University of Florida with a reputation for being a very confident, almost cocky player, but that’s a player the Bucs seldom if ever saw last season.
No one would go so far as to say Hargreaves played timid, but he certainly didn’t play with the same degree of confidence and flare he often showed off during his days with the Gators.
That’s why the Bucs want Hargreaves to be more aggressive this year. They want him to take more chances, even if it means giving up a few more big plays, which is what he was trying to avoid doing as a rookie.
Their belief is that the result, given Hargreaves’ skill set, will be a big boost in pass breakups and takeaways, and at least one outsider believes it’s a sound strategy.
In a section titled “The Book On: Vernon Hargreaves,’’ an anonymous rival scout is quoted in Street and Smith’s 2017 Pro Football Preview saying he believes Hargreaves has the ability to be “a game-wrecker.’’
“I’ve heard Hargreaves say he was born to play cornerback and I wouldn’t disagree with him,’’ the scout said. “The kid is a natural, and you just don’t find many like that.
“Being the son of a football coach has probably helped him but he’s also got great instincts and a great feel for routes and how they unfold. He was really good in college at making plays but I though he was a little tentative last year, not wanting to make a mistake.
“He can be one of the best in the game but he has to trust his skills. Once he gets comfortable with the pace of the NFL – and we started to see that a little late last year – watch out. He can be a game-wrecker.’’
The Bucs no doubt feel the same way about Hargreaves. They didn’t draft him 11th overall last year to be a complementary player, but that was really what he was.
While Brent Grimes was setting the pace with 24 pass breakups and four interceptions, Hargreaves broke up just 10 passes and intercepted one while allowing 86 receptions for 1,271 yards.
Both of those figures were the highest among cornerbacks last year, but it’s obvious that even outside of One Buc Place, the general belief is that Hargreaves can do much better.