Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Photo by: Getty Images
SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. INSIDE THE BUCS’ SELECTION OF HARGREAVES
On April 8, I wrote an SR’s Fab 5 column leading off with a section on Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
I posed the question: does Tampa Bay like Hargreaves?
Yes, I responded.
I asked: is he definitely in the mix for the Buccaneers with the ninth overall pick?
Yes, I wrote.
I pondered: will he be the guy that general manager Jason Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter ultimately take at No. 9?
Well, maybe, I surmised.
We now know the answer. The Buccaneers certainly did like Hargreaves, and traded down from No. 9 to No. 11 and still took him.
Tampa Bay also liked Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple, as I suggested. Apple went to the New York Giants at No. 10, one pick ahead of the Buccaneers.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Florida
If the Giants had selected Hargreaves instead of Apple, the Bucs likely would have drafted the Buckeye or Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who went to New Orleans at No. 12. With three players Tampa Bay coveted remaining in their top 10 draft pool, and the option to trade down just two spots, Licht and Koetter couldn’t lose, and gained a fourth-round pick while still getting a player they wanted.
Another big reason for trading down a few spots was to get outside the top 10 for financial reasons. Not only will Hargreaves come a bit cheaper as the 11th overall pick than he would have as the ninth overall selection, but because he’s a first-rounder, the Bucs will have the right to give him a fifth-year option after his four-year deal expires. Per NFL contract rules, the fifth-year option for players inside the top 10 is approximately $12 million. For players picked from 11-31 in the first round it’s approximately $8 million.
That extra $4 million may not seem like a lot now, but when Tampa Bay’s salary cap gets significantly tighter in the coming years as players like wide receiver Mike Evans and quarterback Jameis Winston will be signing lucrative second contracts with the team it could make a huge difference. It will also make a big difference when it comes to re-signing Hargreaves to a contract extension if he pans out as the number the Bucs will be negotiating from is an $8 million salary in 2020 rather than a $12 million salary that year.
While I had Rankins going to Tampa Bay in PewterReport.com’s 7-Round Mock Draft, we had Hargreaves as PewterReport.com’s Bucs’ Best Bet at cornerback – one of only two at that position – which continues a tradition of forecasting Bucs selections over the years. The reason we had Hargreaves as a Bucs’ Best Bet is because if Tampa Bay was going to draft a cornerback early it was going to be the Florida product – even if my personal ranking of this year’s cornerbacks had him third behind Houston’s Will Jackson and behind Apple.
The reporter in me is supposed to forecast who the Bucs are most likely to take to inform you – the Bucs fan – which is why Hargreaves was a Bucs’ Best Bet. The analyst in me will tell you that I like the pick of Hargreaves, but I don’t love it. Not much has changed from my personal stance nearly a month ago from my previous SR’s Fab 5. I like Hargreaves’ tape, but I don’t necessarily love it, especially some of his battles with NFL-caliber wide receivers like Alabama’s Amari Cooper and Calvin Ridley, and Florida State’s Kelvin Benjamin.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Getty Images
Hargreaves, who had 10 interceptions and 27 pass breakups in three years at Florida, competed well against those players, but he didn’t shut them down. If I’m drafting a cornerback in the top 10 – or near it – I want a shutdown cornerback.
Time will tell if Hargreaves can be that type of cornerback at the NFL level. The fact that the Bucs didn’t race up to the podium with a card with his name on it when he was on the clock at No. 9 tells me Tampa Bay may have wanted him, but it wasn’t dying to have Hargreaves.
If you truly love a player you don’t get cute and chance it and trade down even a few spots. You stick and pick your guy.
Licht said he’s not that concerned about Hargreaves’ size, which is just over 5-foot-10, 204 pounds, and noted that Brent Grimes is also 5-foot-10, as is Ronde Barber, the best defensive back in Bucs history and a future Hall of Famer. I’ll note that Atlanta’s Julio Jones and Benjamin – two players Hargreaves will have to face twice a year – are five inches and seven inches taller than him, respectively.
Yet the Bucs like Hargreaves’ confidence, his ego and his swagger. I certainly admire that, too. He’s a fiercely competitive cornerback that doesn’t back down from a challenge and he’s certainly been battle-tested playing against the likes of the aforementioned receivers, in addition to playing against Odell Beckham, Jr. and Jarvis Landry at LSU and Laquon Treadwell at Ole Miss. Hargreaves actually shut down Treadwell, who was selected in the first round by Minnesota on Thursday.
Tampa Bay also believes that the best football is in front of Hargreaves, who is a junior. The team loves the fact that he has a pair of 5-foot-10 mentors that have been to the Pro Bowl already on the team in Grimes and Alterraun Verner to learn from, in addition to a truly great cornerbacks coach in Jon Hoke. I’ll have more on Hoke later in this week’s SR’s Fab 5.
With veteran cornerbacks like Grimes, Verner, Johnthan Banks and newcomer Josh Robinson already on the team, Hargreaves isn’t under a tremendous amount of pressure to come in right away and start. If Hoke gets him up to speed right away and he wins a starting cornerback job, so be it. If Hargreaves winds up just playing in the slot as Tampa Bay’s nickel cornerback during his rookie year, that’s fine, too.
Licht has seen injuries at the cornerback position take their toll on Tampa Bay’s defense over the past two years, too. A team can never have enough good cornerbacks, especially in the modern day when the NFL has become a passing league and the Bucs have to face the likes of Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice per year.
Louisville DT Sheldon Rankins – Photo by: Getty Images
While there is a lot to like about Hargreaves, I just don’t think an NFL team should build a defense from the back to the front. I would have taken Rankins at No. 11 (or No. 9) given the more immediate need along the defensive line, especially at defensive tackle. The Bucs were certainly considering him, but this draft is the deepest at defensive tackle and Tampa Bay feels it can still get an impact player at that position well into the fourth round. And the Bucs have an extra fourth-rounder now, too.
In the end, the depth at the defensive tackle position had a lot to do with the Bucs’ drafting of Hargreaves. There just aren’t nearly as many good cover cornerbacks in this year’s draft as there are defensive tackles. The Bucs also loved Apple, but weren’t as high on Jackson as I was. The next best cornerback on Tampa Bay may be Baylor’s Xavien Howard, who is viewed as a late second- or early third-round pick.
I’m not arguing the pick of Hargreaves. I’m just stating my preference, just as I did in 2014 when I preferred defensive tackle Aaron Donald over wide receiver Mike Evans for the Bucs at No. 7.
But just as I did with Evans, I’ll get on board the Bucs’ selection of Hargreaves for two big reasons. The first is because he’s a Licht draft pick, and I’ve been clear with the PewterReport.com audience that I trust Licht’s drafting implicitly and have for the past two years.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Florida
The second is because I put a high value on Barber’s opinion. Barber is the ultimate thinking man’s cornerback and an underrated athlete to boot. The guy knows NFL cornerbacks because he was one of the greatest the league has ever seen, especially at the nickel cornerback position. Here’s what Barber told me a month ago when I asked him about the cornerbacks in this draft class. Hargreaves was his number one guy.
“I only watched his scouting film, but he is a confident dude, apparently,” Barber said. “He wants the best match up – isn’t scared. You’ve got to appreciate the guys he’s played against. He’s got fantastic short area quickness and looks like a technician on tape. Plus, he was productive.
“You know I like players that aren’t shy about contact and he is a more than willing tackler. If his measurables were greater, he’d be one of the top 5 players in this draft. I like his attitude. I like his game. I would want him on my team.”
Barber got his wish. Hargreaves is a Buccaneer.
FAB 2. HOKE A BIG REASON FOR DRAFTING HARGREAVES
Part of the reason why Tampa Bay’s secondary was so poor last year – registering just six interceptions and allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 70 percent of their passes – was because of poor coaching.
A big reason why former head coach and defensive play-caller Lovie Smith was fired after a 6-10 season in 2015 was because he wouldn’t make changes to his defensive staff, most notably in the secondary where his son, Mikal, coached the Bucs safeties, his mentor, Larry Marmie, coached nickel backs, and his friend Gil Byrd, coached cornerbacks.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter brought in a proven defensive coordinator in Mike Smith, who brought in a proven defensive backs coach to work with the cornerbacks in Jon Hoke, who will work alongside Brett Maxie, whose primary responsibility to coach Tampa Bay’s safeties.
Bucs DBs coach Jon Hoke – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Perhaps the most impressive thing to me about Tampa Bay’s three-day mini-camp was the coaching job done by Hoke, who is in charge of a position that recorded exactly two interceptions last year in a dismal showing by the secondary. Hoke is legit, and has a background of coaching defensive backs at several small schools prior to Missouri (1994-98) and Florida (1999-2001) before entering the NFL with stops in Houston (2002-08) and Chicago (2009-14). Hoke spent last year as South Carolina’s co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach under Steve Spurrier.
Having Hoke on board as a veteran cornerbacks coach played a big role in Tampa Bay’s selection of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in the first round.
“He’s very knowledgeable and very relatable,” said Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner, who had one pick last year and looked good during the mini-camp as Tampa Bay’s starting right cornerback opposite newcomer Brent Grimes. “He’s doing a very good job of challenging us. A lot of the things we were doing last year are different this year. He’s very challenging and he’s very vocal. I think he’s done a really good job so far.”
After playing for a more laid back coach in Byrd, Bucs cornerback Jude Adjei-Barimah agrees with Verner’s assessment of Hoke.
“He’s no-nonsense, high-intensity, man,” Adjei-Barimah said. “He has the attention to detail that is going to make us better as a secondary. I can’t wait for us all to gel as a secondary.”
In my 22 years of covering the Buccaneers I have seen some excellent defensive backs coaches in Herm Edwards, Mike Tomlin, Raheem Morris and Jimmy Lake. I know a good defensive backs coach when I see one, and Hoke made an immediate positive impression on me.
In fact, the Bucs cornerbacks have spent more time on footwork over the past three days than they might have spent over the first three weeks of training camp last year.
“There is more emphasis on fundamentals, especially with us going to play in a new scheme,” Adjei-Barimah said. “Our individual periods help us transition for when we go into team work periods. Lots of footwork drills – that’s what playing DB is all about. It’s footwork and using your eyes.”
Hargreaves has some of the finest footwork of any cornerback coming out in this year’s draft, and he’ll fit right in with what Hoke wants to do. Footwork is so important to Hoke that he has his cornerbacks conduct a drill in which they can only mirror and defend a receiver with their feet and their hips, and must keep their hands behind their back during the drill. Hargreaves should excel in this drill.
Verner said part of the reason for more footwork is that the cornerbacks are required to backpedal rather than the turn-and-run style of coverage they played the last two years in Tampa Bay.
“Last year we weren’t required to backpedal, so there really wasn’t the need for us to do some of the stuff we’re doing this year,” Verner said. “Knowing that we weren’t doing it last year, it’s more like reviewing a lesson for some people.”
Hoke is a stickler for details. He’s demanding and he can be a bit surly when a player screws up during a drill. It’s quite refreshing to see a guy of his pedigree coaching a unit that was often shredded last year by Pro Bowl quarterbacks and non-descript passers alike to the tune of a 70 percent completion rate.
“Oh man, 70 percent – that’s right,” Verner said. “We have to get that lower into the 50’s this year.”
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Aside from working on footwork, Hoke and secondary coach Brett Maxie, who works with the safeties, has Tampa Bay’s defensive backs also working on tackling the one-man sled every day. That’s not just to brush up on run support skills, either.
That’s for blitzing.
“I was thrilled to get half a sack last year,” Verner said. “I like blitzing this defense because it changes things and teams can’t line up and say, ‘Well, these guys aren’t coming.’ Anybody can come at any time in this defense, especially with looks and the way you get to things I think it’s really going to mix it up for quarterbacks. And then when they see it one time they’ll be aware of it and they’ll be looking. Then it’s going to be on us to give them good looks and not give it away. It’s going to be fun. I want to blitz a lot.”
Verner got his first career sack last year and will have more opportunities in 2016 in Mike Smith’s high-pressure defense. Hargreaves didn’t record a sack at Florida, but it sounds like he’ll get an opportunity to do so in Tampa Bay in addition to covering receivers and picking off passes under Hoke’s tutelage.
FAB 3. BUCS DEFENDERS LOVE NEW ATTACKING SCHEME
Tampa Bay’s initial three-day mini-camp under head coach Dirk Koetter wrapped up just hours before the start of the 2016 NFL Draft and if there was one thing that stood out it was that the Bucs defenders are absolutely giddy over Mike Smith’s new attacking defensive scheme after playing for Lovie Smith’s passive, predictable defense last year.
“There are a lot of different, multiple looks,” Bucs middle linebacker Kwon Alexander said. “It’s going to be way different and it’s going to be hard for teams to keep up with us and know what’s coming. I really like the new defense, so we’re going to see how we do.”
Part of what makes Tampa Bay’s new defense more dangerous is the flexibility it gives the players to adjust to what they see on the fly. Under former head coach Lovie Smith there wasn’t the same freedom or latitude to make changes to the call, especially in the secondary.
Bucs DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“This defense is very aggressive,” Bucs safety Bradley McDougald said. “It’s very in-your-face. It’s match-up oriented. And it’s flexible. There are a lot of adjustments to it and there are a lot of moving parts. I would say it’s a players’ defense because we control a lot of what happens out there. If we don’t like a look they are showing us we can check things as long as we have a valid reason and as long as it follows some of our rules we can check out of things and our coaches don’t have to do much.”
Smith’s scheme is a 4-3 base and we’ve seen the Bucs use an Under and an Over front out of the 4-3. An Under look is when the strongside linebacker walks down and covers the tight end on the line of scrimmage, giving the appearance of a five-man line. The Bucs ran this look quite frequently in 1996 and ’97 before defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin switched to more of an Over front, which is having all three linebackers at the linebacker level, in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.
Aside from where players line up, Tampa Bay defensive end Will Gholston likes the fact that Smith’s new scheme will be played the way defense should be played.
“It’s definitely less predictable and I think it’s built on an attacking mindset,” Gholston said. “I feel that’s the way defense should be played in general. Get after the ball, get after your man and know your assignment. I think it’s a pretty good defense and that we’ll be pretty productive.”
Tampa Bay’s linebackers recorded nine sacks last year with Lavonte David and Kwon Alexander each getting three, but that number could swell in 2016 in the new scheme.
Bucs CB Brent Grimes & DC Mike Smith – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“We’re attacking a lot more than last year and we’re pretty aggressive with our blitzing,” said Bucs defensive end Kourtnei Brown.
The Bucs linebackers will also be in position to make many more plays behind the line of scrimmage in Smith’s new scheme, which will have some similarity to the scheme former Tampa Bay head coach Greg Schiano ran with regards to the front seven. David, a second-round pick under Schiano in 2012, had 37 tackles for loss and nine sacks in his first two seasons in the NFL, but had just 26 tackles for loss and four sacks over the past two years under Lovie Smith.
“I like an aggressive style of defense,” Brown said. “It’s crucial for us when we’re blitzing with zero coverage for us to get the quarterback down – and it’s exciting.”
More blitzing, more sacks, more tackles for loss, more takeaways. That’s what Mike Smith’s new high-pressure defense is designed to do.
“Pressuring the quarterback with different looks is designed to create confusion for him with a late ball thrown or a quarterback hesitating and the D-line getting in there,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “Hopefully that’s what we’re going to be able to do in this defense – get the quarterback to hesitate and not have a pre-snap read and already know where he’s going with the ball.”
Alexander had three sacks and two interceptions during his rookie season and expects those stats to rise with a new more aggressive defense in Tampa Bay.
“We will be more dangerous this year – be on the look out.”
FAB 4. VERSATILE GHOLSTON WANTS TO BRING THE PASS RUSH IN BIG YEAR
Do the Buccaneers need to draft a defensive end this year? Absolutely, and look for them to do so by adding another pass rusher in round 2-4.
This franchise has not had a double-digit sacker since Simeon Rice’s last year in Tampa Bay in 2005. That was over a decade ago.
Newcomer Robert Ayers had 9.5 sacks last year in New York, but he will turn 31 in September.
Jacquies Smith had a career-high seven sacks last year, but can’t stay healthy for 16 games and missed four games due to injury last year.
Howard Jones had five sacks as an undrafted rookie last year, but is viewed as a situational pass rusher rather than an every down defender.
Bucs DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
And Will Gholston, who is coming off a season-high three sacks, isn’t known as a pass rushing defensive end. But Gholston does provide tremendous value to the Bucs due to his position flexibility and is entering a contract year.
Whether the team wants to keep Gholston or let him walk in free agency in 2017 will depend on how he plays this year.
“Have I thought about it? I guess so,” Gholston said about entering a contract year. “It really hasn’t hit me yet. Maybe it will hit me at the end of the season because I won’t know what I’ll be doing next. But I would be glad to be here. I love it here.”
The enticing thing about Gholston aside from his massive 6-foot-6 frame is the fact that he’s entering his fourth year in the league – and he’s only 24 year old.
“I’m 24 and this is my fourth year, it’s crazy, right?” Gholston said. “I’ll see those rookies come in and they are almost as old as me, but I think it’s fun. I was young when I came in the league, but I learned a lot. I think it’s an advantage for me. This is the most consistent I’ve been playing defensive line, and I didn’t start learning defensive line until college. I never really played it before. It’s just getting fun right now. I know I said this last year, but I think I’m really going to show you some stuff this year.”
Gholston’s pass rush improved in 2015 when he posted a trio of sacks, including a career-high two against Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in a key 23-19 win at Raymond James Stadium.
“In the Atlanta game when we needed him to step up he did with two sacks,” said Gholston’s good friend, nose tackle Akeem Spence, who will also be an unrestricted free agent in 2017. “All that hard work paid off. The sacks haven’t come to him like they’ve supposed to, but it’s nice to see it pay off. I was very happy for him. He and I came in together and we’ve seen each other grow.”
Bucs nose tackle Clinton McDonald saw Gholston grow last year and take on a bigger role as both a defensive end and an interior rusher, finishing fifth on the team with a career-high 67 tackles, three sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.
“I saw him elevate his play and mature as a player last year,” McDonald said. “I think Will is a very talented guy size-wise. He’s a big guy at the defensive end position and he can also come inside and rush the passer from the three-technique position. He’s maturing in his game.
“Will is the type of guy that takes football very seriously. He loves the game and he brings a certain level of excitement to us. I told him after the St. Louis game, ‘Big fella, great job. You had 11 tackles.’ But he was more concerned about the fact that we lost. He’s the type of guy that can go out and give a great effort, but he wants to be a part of a winning effort for the team rather than just a great individual effort.”
Gholston’s individual effort in Tampa Bay’s 31-23 loss to St. Louis was a herculean feat, a stats line that hadn’t been accomplished by a defensive tackle since Hall of Famer Warren Sapp did it in 1997.
“I was happy to see all of that hard work pay off for him in that St. Louis game,” Spence said. “He had 11 tackles. I told him, ‘Bruh, you had 11 tackles. You did something that hadn’t been done since Warren Sapp did it!’ I was so excited for him. He’s a few months older than me, but he’s still young. I love Will to death. He comes to work every day, and no matter how banged up he is, he’s coming to play. He has a warrior mentality.”
Gholston has heard the criticism. He draws too many penalties. He’s not a good enough pass rusher. He doesn’t live up to his potential.
And he’s using the naysayers to fuel his fire in the most important season of his young NFL career.
Bucs DE Will Gholston – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
“Not good enough,” Gholston said. “I only finished with three sacks. I know you’re trying to compliment me in the running game, but in this league it’s not just about stopping the run. You have to stop the run, but it’s about getting to the passer. I need more sacks. It wasn’t the kind of season I wanted or needed it to be.”
Of all the defensive linemen in Tampa Bay, new defensive line coach Jay Hayes might be excited to work with Gholston the most. After all, Hayes spent years working with massive defensive ends like 6-foot-7 Michael Johnson, 6-foot-8 Margus Hunt and 6-foot-6 Carlos Dunlap, who developed into a Pro Bowler in 2015.
“He had some giants out there in Cincinnati,” Spence said. “We have some giants here, though. We have Will and … well, I guess we have Will and that’s it! But Will is the LeBron James of the defensive line in Tampa because he can play all four positions. He can do it all. Will is a force.”
Gholston appreciates the job Joe Cullen did in developing his game the past two seasons, but is eager to work with Hayes, who comes to Tampa Bay with a great reputation from his days in Cincinnati where he also molded defensive tackle Geno Atkins into a Pro Bowler.
“He’s a great guy, a cool coach and a down-to-earth guy,” Gholston said of Hayes. “He gets the message across the right way. I think everyone in the room is getting his message. We’re getting some good coaching.
“I put the pressure on myself to build my craft at every position. In this league, position flexibility is the key. I’ll always have a home if I can be flexible at any position. I’m just glad they are giving me the opportunity to play inside, outside, left and right.”
With new defensive coordinator Mike Smith running a multiple defense that will feature occasional 3-4 looks and a 4-3 base, Gholston’s body size lends itself to tremendous position versatility, which is great asset.
Gholston looks like he’s in great shape around 270 pounds by my estimation. He smiled and corrected me.
“I’m 290 right now,” Gholston said. “I’ve dieted and worked out this offseason. I talked to my agent and we’ve really worked on a plan. I’m glad I look like I’m 270. I feel good now!
“I came in at 267 or 270 last year. I think the highest I was last year was 280. When I got up that high last year they asked me to cut some weight. That’s not the case this year as long as I’m moving well.”
Against the Falcons he showed he could rush the passer with a pair of sacks. Against the Rams he showed he could be a run-stuffing force with 11 tackles. Now Gholston has to put it all together on a weekly basis.
“I showed what I could do, but I have to be consistent,” Gholston said. “I have to play that way every game – not in spurts here or there or showing flashes. It’s time for me to be consistent. I have to. It’s a big year for me.”
It is a big year for Gholston, and he’ll likely have the added pressure of increased competition when the Bucs draft a defensive end on Day 2 or Day 3 in the 2016 NFL Draft.
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• The Buccaneers currently have six remaining draft picks with one selection in rounds two, three and five and two selections in the fourth and sixth rounds due to trades. I’m doing a separate story on the best available options for Day 2, so look for that analysis on PewterReport.com later Friday morning. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs traded up in the second round if one of the defensive ends they are targeting – Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah or Eastern Kentucky’s Noah Spence – doesn’t get selected near to the top of the round.
• Just because Tampa Bay drafted cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in the first round on Thursday doesn’t mean that the end is near for holdover cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner. In fact, Hargreaves’ addition really turns the cornerback position into a team strength and the team is better off with the top rookie, Banks and Verner, in addition to newcomers Brent Grimes and Josh Robinson.
Bucs CBs Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Verner and Grimes have Pro Bowl pedigree, and even though Verner is scheduled to make $6.75 million in 2016, the Bucs are willing to give he and Banks, who is entering a contract year, a chance to prove themselves in training camp and the preseason. It is conceivable that the team could head into the regular season with Grimes, Verner, Banks, Hargreaves, Robinson and possibly Jude Adjei-Barimah as the team’s six cornerbacks.
During the team’s first mini-camp this past week, Verner and Grimes were starting with Banks and Robinson on the second team. Verner and Banks were playing right cornerback, while Grimes and Robinson were on the left side.
Verner said that those spots are far from being set in stone.
“We’re going to be mixing it up,” Verner said. “I think it’s something they just threw together to get through this mini-camp. I don’t know anyone knows exactly where they are going to line up. I think this weekend will predicate which way they go with a lot of us. I think they did that for now so we could go out there and compete. I don’t think we’re locked in to certain spots. It’s perfect timing because it’s right before the draft so they can see what they have at certain positions.”
• At 6-foot-2, Johnthan Banks brings size to the cornerback position and is planning on a bounce back season in 2016 in Mike Smith’s new attacking-style defense. Banks had seven interceptions in his first two years in the NFL, including a career-high four picks and a pick-six in 2014 before being benched at times last year. Banks loves the new defensive scheme and understands the importance of delivering big time in 2016, which is a contract year for the former Jim Thorpe Award winner.
“It’s been on my mind,” Banks said. “I’m not going to lie. I just want to go out and ball and help my team win. If this team is winning everybody is going to be taken care of. It’s a contract year. I’m going to go out and give it everything I’ve got. If I do it, I do it. If I don’t, I don’t. It won’t be from a lack of effort, but God has a plan for us all. I’m ready to go.”
• The educated guess here is that first-round cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III will start off as the Bucs’ all-important nickel cornerback where his quick feet, instincts and toughness should shine through even as a rookie. Hargreaves will have some competition, though, as Jude Adjei-Barimah took the majority of reps there during the three-day mini-camp after playing mostly outside cornerback last year as a rookie.
“Jude played safety in college, so he’s used to the physicality and the tackling,” Bucs cornerback Alterraun Verner said. “In fact, he worked some in the nickel last year, too. It’s not foreign to him. I like Jude in there. He’s a very cerebral player and I think he can handle the load. I think he can excel. He’s going to work his butt off for sure.”
Bucs CB Jude Adjei-Barimah – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Adjei-Barimah said the transition inside went smoothly during the Bucs’ first mini-camp.
“I love it,” Adjei-Barimah said. “I played a little bit of it last year and a lot of it in college. I’m just trying to carve out a role for myself on the roster this year. I want to be known as a flexible guy – a guy that can play inside, outside and on special teams. I feel like that’s what I can provide.”
• My hope is that the Buccaneers draft South Carolina State defensive tackle Javon Hargrave in the middle rounds. Not only is he my favorite defensive tackle behind Louisville’s Sheldon Rankins, but how fitting would it be for this team to draft Vernon Hargreaves in the first round and then another player named Hargrave later on? Hargreaves and Hargrave.
• I didn’t think the Buccaneers would necessarily draft a wide receiver this year with so many needs on the defensive side of the ball, yet after seeing so many balls on the ground during the team’s initial three-day mini-camp I would now be surprised if Tampa Bay didn’t draft one on Day 3. It was disappointing to see too many drops from holdover receivers Kenny Bell, Donteea Dye and Russell Shepard during the mini-camp, and they weren’t the only ones.
Some receivers to keep an eye on for Tampa Bay include Oklahoma’s Sterling Shepard, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller, Cincinnati’s Chris Moore, Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo and German wide receiver Moritz Boehringer in the middle rounds, and Ole Miss’ Cody Core, Southern Miss’ Mike Thomas, UCLA’s Jordan Payton, Tulsa’s Keyaris Garrett, Illinois’ Geronimo Allison, Iowa State’s Quenton Bundridge late.
• PewterReport.com had its best ever first-round mock draft prediction on Thursday, accurately forecasting six of the first seven picks, including QB Jared Goff to Los Angeles at No. 1, QB Carson Wentz to Philadelphia at No. 2, RB Ezekiel Elliott to Dallas at No. 4, CB Jalen Ramsey to Jacksonville at No. 5, LT Ronnie Stanley to Baltimore at No. 6 and DE DeForest Buckner to San Francisco at No. 7. We also had Tennessee accurately drafting offensive tackle Jack Conklin, albeit at No. 8 rather than at No. 15. Not bad at all, eh?
• And finally, if you have RSVP’d for Friday night’s PewterReport.com Day 2 Draft Party at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s Hard Rock Cafe we’ll see you there. If you haven’t RSVP’d via e-mail to email@example.com I’m afraid that we are at full capacity with 150 Bucs fans expected to attend. Follow the action tonight on our @PewterReport Twitter account live from the Hard Rock Cafe where current Buccaneers Will Gholston, Jacquies Smith, Akeem Spence and Pat Murray are expected to attend, in addition to former Bucs Dwight Smith and Tyoka Jackson.
Scott Reynolds is in his 22nd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
In keeping with my philosophy of never look back, I’m going to do this just once and ……never look back regarding the Bucs pick of Vernon Hargreaves at 11.
PFT is reporting that the Jets tried desperately to trade up to get the falling OT Laremy Tunsil, but found the trade price too high. I don’t understand why a deal could not be struck using the draft trade value chart. The difference between pick 11 (1250) and pick 20 (850) is 400 points. The Jets 2nd round pick (51) is worth 390 points – a fair trade.
If the Bucs traded down to 20, getting another 2nd round pick would seem worthwhile. LB Darron Lee was picked at 20, CB William Jackson III was not picked until 24, CB Artie Burns was not picked until 25, and DT Vernon Butler was not picked until 30. DE Noah Spence was still on the board and the draft is loaded with good 2nd day CBs like Xavien Howard/Baylor.
Hey, it is what it is and I’m happy to have VHIII, but for a team needing draft picks I could have easily justified moving down again! There, I said it, now I’m moving on!
my guess is the drop off for the bucs from VG3 to the next CB was to wide, hence they needed more compensation than 400 measly points. Solid pick for two reasons…Tampa/Miami and UF kids who wants to be in Tampa from day one. that goes a long way especially for the fan base that was divided with he Winston/FSU pick last year. Second, VG3 is the most fundamentally sound CB in the draft. I spend an unnecessary amount of time following combine stuff and pro day videos. VG3 has fantastic back pedal and hip turns. This kid has a very high ceiling, 5’10” whatever, the NFL is a team sport and those who want a shut down corner, talk to me when you have a QB that creep it into windows as tight as the ones he’s going to create with his vertical. More importantly he plays the run support with aggression and low pad level! More than likely my guess is Banks will be covering the taller receivers in man schemes anyways…let’s hope we get the steal of the draft next in Javon Hargrave
SR- I love PR but your website has made this draft a complete bust. I could not get on the past two days. I expect it to be slow during the pick, but can’t even get to the message boards now. No more excuses, you lost a lot of visits yesterday. In my over 15 years coming daily, it has never been this bad.
yep! they need a new hosting company bad… had to go to other sites for buc news 🙁
I didn’t read this as Hargeaves is a complete bust at all. I look at who was available when we picked and didn’t see anyone that seemed like a day and night better pick? Anyways moving on rd 1 over. Got another good CB and a 4th rd pick. Let’s get another Kwon type pick in 4th! Wishful thinking I know. Lol.
Great article. Lots of good info. I was wondering about Jude because all CB talk last few months nobody really mentioned the guy. He started as a rookie and matched up against top notch players and did pretty damn good considering the defensive issues last year. Also who is to say because Hargreaves was 1st rd you have to match him against Julio jones and Benjamin or other giants. Banks was 2nd round and tall enough to match up. Maybe with better coaching and scheme he can. I just hope Hargreaves is a guy that makes splash plays and turnovers. If he does that doesn’t matter if he’s in nickel or whatever.
I watched a few of this kid’s games – and outsourced my watching of his tape, interviews, high school practices, etc to Mayock, Kiper, Jeremiah, PR, and so forth – as I do every year…which I think is perfectly well informed.
When we picked Mark Barron I said “not sure…saw him get burned a lot in the games I watched…my consultants seem to think he’s great…which I guess he will be as long as we don’t ask him to cover anybody”…which of course we did, and he sucked.
I use that comparison for this reason…after watching VHIII play a few games, my thoughts are “he looked good, except when he was left on an island and asked to shut down a WR….my consultants seem to think he’s great…which I guess he will be as long as we don’t leave him on an island”, which fortunately, it seems Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter (unlike Greg SchiaNo and the Chirp-man) have in mind….making VHIII the next Ronde Barber, not the next Darrelle Revis.
So, I like the pick! And, I would like to thank my consultants for their hard work around Round 1.
As for the idea of our Defense being more aggressive…sounds great in theory…will be a disaster if we don’t upgrade at Safety…more aggressive means more pressure on the Safeties to fill-in the holes…that went very very badly last year…we need a great looking Safety very soon in this draft…if not at #39, then trade back into the second round and get one near the bottom of the round….please!
wolfet, I will tell you the same thing that I tell my kids, if that is the most you have to complain about, your life must be going pretty good so just keep your pie hole shut.
Millions of people fleeing war torn countries, countless thousands of people losing their jobs to cheap labor from overseas, thousands of others being flooded out of their homes because people refuse to believe humans are causing climate change.
But poor wolfet can’t get onto to some aimless web forum and twitter away like a little girl.
In the famous words of Col. Kurtz in “Apocalypse Now,” “the horror, the horror.”
And yet you bitch about how much money the Glazers make. You’re the definition of a hypocrite.
Oh my! I would’ve rather seen the Bucs go with Sheldon Rankins or Laremy Tunsil here. Or even better, trade down.
Not looking forward to all the TDs scored on the Bucs next year over our slow/short rookie CB.
Jason Licht swing and miss. Steve Keim still owns you…
Great SR and maybe if you guys had a hard time to getting on you should stop using dial up and maybe go to DSL or even god forbid, a cable line.
I had no problems getting on so perhaps its your equipment.
Like blaming a bad golf swing on the club.
It’s nice to hear all this chatter about a new “attacking defense’ but if memory serve Schiano was using an “attacking” defense and I remember a lot of DB’s standing around looking stupid as WR’s ran free into the end zone.
It looked like the DB’s were confused about what defense they were supposed to be in.
I like Will Gholston and remember a PR story where Joe Cullen was really riding him and Gholston’s response to the attention was that he knew Cullen was riding him because he wanted to get him to play to his ability.
What a great attitude, I thought at the time and still do.
Wasn’t aware the guy was so young and raw though when he was drafted.
I always thought the Bucs draft improved when Schiano came on board and if Spence and Gholston keep developing it will be because of Schiano, not that moronic pretty boy Dominick.
I’m still not sold on Hargraves but I don’t see why he can’t start this year since he has said over and over, “I’m a shut down corner.”
Well it’s time to show up or shut up young man.
That’s because Shiano was teaching his CB’s to never turn around and look for the ball. If on most plays one of them would have took a peak when they saw the receivers eyes zero in on the ball would have turned to play the ball they would of most certainly had a pb or int. It made me sick to watch it.
Most guys blame it on their equipment.
And we remember each time it fails us.
Arizona Joe, I hope you don’t mind me saying you have a great rack.
Do you hang with Kaitlen Jenner?
Lol, thanks bud. Actually, a TB Cheerleader…
I am very happy about Coach Hoke coaching the secondary. That is the major upgrade the Bucs needed. Go Bucs!!!
wolfet; that’s BS as I got on yesterday and last night.
I’m not the only one having a problems so not bs, at times I can get to message board but can’t open the threads. Other times not at all. I tried on two computers, ipad, phone, etc. Articles on the main page work fine though.
Is your first name Joe?
I had a problem early yesterday morning but it was OK by the afternoon. Yes, drdneast, I have modern equipment.
Scott, very good Fab 5. I like you and many others aren’t wowing about the Hargraves selection, but we’ll still live. I was just disappointed we didn’t draft OT Tunsil if we weren’t going to trade down again. I hope we don’t waste our 4th round pick up by trading up a few slots in the 2nd round. I’m hoping we can trade down at spot 39 to spot 49 or 50 and pick up another late 3rd round pick. There’s plenty of DE’s and DT’s available, but they do trail off quickly after about Spots 110-120. Well we still need a DT, DE, Safety, WR, probably a WR and LB; of course I would be happy if we could get the FSU kicker in the 4th round, but he might be gone in the 3rd round. Go Bucs!
Horse is a psychic.
Arizonajoe- also roots for the Cards like myself as we both live out here now. As for Hargreaves? Not impressed and I root for the Gators as when I lived there I was a Gators Fan, he has quick feet and so what he gets smoked to much for my liking and doesn’t throw his body around vs the run. Much rather would have had selected Karl Joseph or William Jackson. We got a 4th round selction for moving out of top ten but Seahawks get a 3rd for moving from 25th to 32, Hey Licht you could have gotten a 3rd. Add Hargreaves to my most disappointed draft pics along with Clayborne, Freeman and Michael Clayton. Still mad we didn’t choose Steven Jackson and drafted Michael Clayton, but hey who am I just some guy from AZ I guess.
We should meet and watch the Bucs, I am in the East Valley. Are you going to try to get tickets to the Bucs/Cardinals game this year (week 2)? Actually, not a Cardinals fan. I bleed Buccaneers!
Well guys…I live half the year in Snotsdale. I root for cards but the Bucs are my home team.
It’s a golf thing
“In the end, the depth at the defensive tackle position had a lot to do with the Bucs’ drafting of Hargreaves.” . . . this has been my silver lining about drafting Hargreaves III – Dt/De were the only D positions I really studied heading into this years draft. Last night was the first time I really watched all the youtube highlights anyways of Hargreaves, and well, my conclusion was, glad there’s a lot of Dl in this years draft!
I think Spence/ Ogbah/ Bell will be the pick in the second round for us. No need to trade up because one of the three will fall to us in my opinion. What I would like to see happen is for the Bucs to take a chance on one of the injured guys if they keep falling. If Myles Jack is there when we pick in the third, I would take him. Similarly, I would spend one of our fourth round picks on the LB out of Notre Dame. I know both would be luxury picks, but at some point the value is greater than the need at other positions. Just imagine the kind of depth and versatility our defense would be afforded with these two guys on the roster with David and Alexander.
Thank you SR. I really needed Fab 1. I haven’t had too many positive things to say since week 1 last season–Lovie really crushed ALL hope for me–so I just kept it to myself. But now here we are, new coaching, offensive minded, the Bucs’ are leaving the vanilla 2 in the past and we’re picking in the top 10…AND crap, I don’t really have a lot of excitement for our draft pick. Thanks Scott for putting my concerns into writing, and throwing a little fresh perspective into it too.
As far as drafting a DE goes, I think Spence would be a great choice. When he was with OSU, he was the man, better than Bosa. Also, I would like to see the Bucs grab one of the injured linebackers, Jacks, or Smith from ND. Jacks career may be very limited, but no one really knows. Smith will recover and be as good as ever, and he may even have a very long prosperous career. Either one would make our linebacking core one of the best in the NFL, if not thee best group.
Spence is OLB in a 3-4 defense he is not a 4-3 DE understand players ski set please
Jon, too small. Smith already is his size and can’t stay healthy because of the pounding he takes from the opponents OL. If Spence is the only DE available then I’m moving on to another position to draft.
Your right cgmaster, I should have addressed the obscene amount of income disparity not only in this country but in the world as part of my diatribe.
Thanks for pointing our my mistake.
That was what you were trying to do, wasn’t it?
Wolfet. my apologies to you, sir, if I went after you a little heavy handed.
We get Pewter Report for free which I appreciate a great deal so when they receive criticism about what I perceive to be minor issues, I sometimes can get on a rant, much like jongruden does with Luke Stoker.
Hey Scott..just a quick comment for you. I absolutely love the site and it’s always my first click when looking for Bucs info. You guys always seem to have some inside scoop and it’s obvious your sources trust you. My only complaint is the continued “we told you so” theme. I don’t need to always read or hear how PR “told you this..or told you that”. If you guys continue to provide us with the best behind the scenes info on the Bucs (which in my opinion you do), we’ll continue to come to the site. Reminding us that you told us something was going to happen or could happen afterwards is getting to be a bit over the top. Thanks!
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