Earlier this week the Bucs had their coaching staff, both coordinators and assistants, available for the media.
Defensive coordinator Mike Smith was the first to the podium on Wednesday, and after a season in which his defense finished near the bottom in the NFL in many major categories, he certainly had some questions to answer.
One of those question was what the team was going to do with their third-year cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, who started the 2017 season as the team’s outside cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, was demoted to just nickel cornerback duties, then played back on the outside for a few games just to finish the season on IR with a hamstring injury.
With Hargreaves struggling on the outside but playing well in nickel, there was wonder whether or not he would be considered to play on the outside again. Smith answered that question (sort of) this week.
“We’ve told everybody that we want everybody to come in with the mindset that they’re going to be the starter at their position. Vernon’s position is corner and nickel, corner in base defense and nickel in our sub package. We want these guys to go out and compete. We don’t care where they were drafted, how much they get paid. We’re going to put the best 11 guys out there on every snap and we want these guys to go out and compete against each other from day one. In terms of Vernon specifically, Vernon is competing to be the starting corner in base and probably going to be the guy we would move in because I think he has a better skill set at the nickel position in our sub defense.”
Hargreaves gave up the most yards and most catches in the NFL of any cornerback in 2016 when he was a rookie. He started 2017 on the outside and the struggles remained, albeit with a bad pass rush, but after being demoted, he played well on the inside.
Defensive backs coach Jon Hoke also addressed questions about Hargreaves.
“I think he’s just got to help us as a football player overall. Vernon is smart, he always figures it out, in my opinion. He knows what he needs to work on. He needs to be better outside. We feel very comfortable with him inside. When we moved him inside, the first thing I thought was, ‘Wow, you have good recall,’ and he said, ‘It’s the first position I learned when I got here,’ because that’s where he started. So, he’s going to be apt at both. We’re giving him an opportunity to play at both and then let them all compete from there.”
Sounds like the team is comfortable with Hargreaves as a nickel player, but in base defense, when the season starts, Hargreaves is scheduled to be their outside cornerback opposite Brent Grimes, as of right now.
Trevor Sikkema is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat reporter and NFL Draft analyst for PewterReport.com. Sikkema, an alumnus of the University of Florida, has covered both college and professional football for much of his career. As a native of the Sunshine State, when he's not buried in social media, Sikkema can be found out and active, attempting to be the best athlete he never was. Sikkema can be reached at: email@example.com
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