Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Cover 3 is a weekly feature column written by PewterReport.com’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat writer Trevor Sikkema published every Tuesday. The column, as its name suggests, comes in three phases: a statistical observation, an in-depth film breakdown, and a “this or that” segment where the writer asks the reader to chose between two options.
SIKKEMA’S STAT OF THE WEEK
You have to be a little crazy to play defense in the National Football League.
Playing defense in the NFL means that you’ve played that side of the ball for most likely the last decade or more of your life, taking and dealing out hits at full speed. As you’ve grown into adulthood, so has your strength and your speed – as has the strength and speed of your competition. That means the hits got harder, and the weaker players have thinned their way out of the game.
By the time you get to the league, only the best remain. Chances are you’re not enough of a superior athlete to dominate in ways you were before. That means you have to adapt, but it also means you have to learn how to get something out of every facet of your game — the successes and the failures.
In terms of having the crazy in him, Bucs rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves checks that box.
First, Vern might be Dark-Knight-Joker level crazy after hearing this laugh: pic.twitter.com/PZ35iqAfkQ
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 21, 2017
First, Vern might be Dark-Knight-Joker level crazy after hearing this laugh: pic.twitter.com/PZ35iqAfkQ
— Trevor Sikkema (@TampaBayTre) February 21, 2017
Have you ever heard anyone laugh like that in your entire life? That was like something from Heath Ledger’s version of The Joker in the Batman movie The Dark Knight. And that wasn’t just a one-play thing. The Buccaneers had Hargreaves Mic’d Up for that entire game versus the Seattle Seahawks – he knew it – and he was laughing and going crazy like that all game long.
After the game, he even acknowledged it and fully embraced his unusual expression of joy.
“You know, they say I laugh like a hyena,” Hargreaves said. “I thought that was pretty funny. A few people on Instagram, they want to call me the Hyena now. Yeah, that’s cool. But everybody liked it, and I’m going to keep it up.”
Hargreaves has the crazy part within him – of that we know. He also has the successes and failures part, both the good and the bad.
The good was that Hargreaves started every single game of the Buccaneers’ 9-7 2016 season. He played the second-most snaps on defense — 1,037 out of 1,062, and was just five snaps behind team leader Lavonte David. He was named to the Pro Football Writers of America’s All-Rookie Team, and was the only Bucs player to earn the recognition. Not only that, but Hargreaves did so while playing three separate positions: boundary, field and slot corner.
That was the good, but there was also the bad.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and Falcons WR Julio Jones – Photo by: Getty Images
According to the NFL1000 project put on by BleacherReport, Hargreaves never graded out as a Top 20 cornerback at any point this season. He finished the year ranked as the project’s 68th-ranked corner, and was really picked on this year for coverage flaws.
Of all cornerbacks in the NFL, no player gave up more passing yards than Hargreaves (1,271) – second most was Sean Smith with 999. He yielded the most targets of any corner at 127 and subsequently gave up the most receptions with 86. He also had the 15th most routes run against him at 538 and was tied for sixth in most TDs given up with 6.
Now, some of those stats are cause and effect. For example, no cornerback was targeted more than Hargreaves, so it makes sense that he would have a lot of catches and yards given up against him. But today we’re here to go beyond the stats and answer the question: How much of all that was really his fault, or better yet, how much of it is truly concerning?
In order to assess where Hargreaves is and the kind of learning curve he’ll be on, we have to recognize within those stats which parts of his game were getting picked on, and which parts were just him being targeted because he was a rookie.
Let’s take a look.
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 protected]
Trevor, I thought that was one of your better articles. I felt I was able to understand all of the points you were making.
The defense started to play much better around the time that Hargreaves started making plays. Plus the Bucs needed help in the secondary. Therefore I think the guy was the right pick.
Haha, glad you enjoyed it! I throw a lot of stuff at people in these Cover 3’s. I try to make the gibberish in my mind as clear as I can on the screen.
I’m glad to see someone actually break down film and point this out. At the end of the season when Hargreaves was getting all these accolades I was scratching my head. Every game I watched when a big play was made against I made a point to know who the week link was and #28 was always there, on the ground or behind the receiver. Granted he’s a rookie and has a learning curve but I fail to understand how the coaching staff put him in as a starter and against teams best receivers after constantly getting burned. As to the writers point of him being targeted more than any other CB in the league the answer is simple. Darrell Reaves is called the “Island” for a reason. QB’s don’t throw that way because they know better. Conversely all the QB’s targeting Hargreaves targeted him for the same reason: They knew better! They knew what we are just figuring out, that he is a liability and easy target. I hope his sophomore season improves vastly if not we need to address that position in FA or the draft.
I didn’t like the selection of Hargreaves last yr and was burned on regular basis most of the yr but he is a rookie and he was showing improvement so that’s my take
Trevor, another excellent article. I also was not a great fan of the pick but felt that it was more needs driven than the best player available. However, I do think we will eventually get All-Pro play out of Hargreaves. I did notice that he was getting better as the year went on, but his regression against Carolina was disappointing. Still, I really think the kid is willing to put in the work and effort to get better. I do think he can get up to Brent Grimes ability eventually, so really, that’s not bad.
I’m satisfied with the current progress, but he needs to take what he did in the 2nd part of the season and get better.
I will be very interested to see what they do at cornerback this offseason. How they handle Verner’s contract as well as any free agents or potential draft picks in the secondary could hint at where they want Hargreaves to play long-term. Being all over like he was this year is such a tough task, even with improvement year-to-year.
Pretty sure Verner is going to be released, but the fact that they haven’t yet just means to me that they haven’t got his replacement lined up yet (much as the Doug Martin move). It is possible that Verner renegotiates to a lower contract, but my guess is that he wants to be released and move to another team that will give him a chance to be a starter. I suspect they will look for someone else in FA as a value signing to replace him.
Also, would love to see you do a Cover 3 article on Jabrill Peppers. Some draft sites have us selecting him and as a UoM grad I’ve seen every one of his games and would be thrilled with the choice. However, I do see the reason why many Buc fans are reluctant to embrace the player. Peppers is a dynamic playmaker that has played at almost every defensive and offensive position during his years at Michigan. I have seen him play cornerback, both safety positions and linebacker on defense, running back, wide receiver and quaterback on offense. He’s also a dangerous kick and punt returner. I realize that when you look at stats, it’s hard to project just how successful (as well as what would be his best position).
Anyway, I think a Cover 3 doing some analysis of this pick would probably be really interesting (and might be a very long article). I believe for the right team, he’s going to be a superstar, but then again, that’s probably just homerism on my part.
Just a suggestion if you were looking for someone to look at.
As a Gators fan I didn’t like the selection last year because of how he performed in marquee match ups at Florida and I saw nothing last year to change that. The Bucs would have been better off selecting Eli Apple instead of trading back as he had the better year. Hargreaves did improve as the year went on but was the only CB to give up over 1000 yards last season, so anything would be considered “improvement.” He could of course continue to improve and become a solid contributor but he doesn’t have the size to handle big receivers nor the long speed to handle deep threats which makes him NOT worth the selection at 11. I have always wanted to see VHIII live up to the hype but his game type has never backed up the lofty praise he receives.
I’m a Gator fan myself, so I watched every game of his in college. Pre-draft I liked him, but more as a bottom half of the draft kind of pick in terms of value. However, you can only draft what that year’s pool has for you. Bucs wanted a corner, they took the second best one, and even traded down to do it.
Rankins would have been better, Tunsil would have been better even with the gas mask picture and even Artie Burns selected 25th by Pittsburgh had a better season. I know Mike Smith’s scheme calls for smaller CBs that can backpedal but let’s learn something from the Lovie experience and select guys WORTH the selection and not just guys that are “scheme fits”
I’ve been told the selection between Hargreaves and Rankins was basically a coin flip. And, hey, you don’t need to convince me of that. Acquire the best players and let talent determine your scheme (within reason).
Just concerns me because I think anyone who wanted to see VHIII limitations saw them. Yet we still over drafted him with better players on the board and positions that could certainly use improvement, hell there were better CBs left. Then our 2nd round grade on Mr. Aguayo, I sure hope they have tightened up the evaluation process this year and hit on the early round picks.
I am happy with VHIII. I thought he had a tremendous impact in the San Diego game. He tipped the pass that David picked off and scored a touchdown. That play changed the momentum of the game. Plus, that was the game that Hump got a concussion. So VHIII fielded punts the rest of the game. There may not have been any spectacular returns, but, there were no muffs or turnovers.
Trevor, excellent article. I learned a lot and appreciate your insight.
You’re right. Special teams was just another thing to put on his plate. Week 13 was one of his stronger weeks.
Wow, so much hate on this board for the young man. Especially surprising from Gators. I just say this. He played almost every snap. He played inside and outside and special teams. His learning curve was steep. He had to learn so much, so fast. He has great coaching and a perfect mentor in Brent Grimes. Just give the kid a chance before you judge him. I love his work ethic and he his smart. Sorry for being so simplistic…but this football, not rocket science.
Wasn’t a big fan of the pick when it happened as the games that I watched him , he struggled. Especially against guys bigger than him. Grimes has the ability to play bigger than he is and I hope he instills that in Vernon. I like the kids passion and fire and rookie DB has to be the toughest transition of all outside QB I would think. He will struggle in our divisional games though as he’s just not tall enough. I know Mike Smiths defenses call for guys of that size but man , sometimes you just aren’t tall enough , especially on goal line fades.
Overdrafted a player with late first to second round talent…. But the bigger issue is that it appears buccaneers have a leak in the personel department when it comes to drafts since Licht arrival… Over the the last few years every outlet has been naming the bucs first round pick a month out from the draft with 100% accuracy.. I refused to believe my bucs would spend a 1st on a 5’10 corner with average speed but ESPN sure had it pegged
Wasn’t hard to see what our biggest need was and deduct that the number one player in that category would be gone by time we picked. To suggest there’s a leak based on that information is ridiculous. On a team with a ton of 5’10” corners VH3 is already the second best against the pass and best at run support. So he fit the need, the scheme and projected availability in our draft position… I don’t understand?
I don’t get the “over-drafted” remarks at all .. in fact I reject them.
VHIII was a unanimous All America his last year at Florida … and in his rookie season makes the All Rookie team. His learning curve had a very big part to play in the overall defensive learning curve for the season. How can someone expect a rookie to immediately start against the very best WRs in the league, with little to no help at all from our inury-depleted defensive line that positively sucked the first half of the season, putting the entire load on the back seven.
OF COURSE the offenses targeted the rookie, rather than highly experienced Grimes and Verner.
What the hell do you expect for a mid-first round pick anyway? A lot of commenters here have really unrealistic expectations.
Some folks just don’t get it Naples. They have some misconception that a rookie drafted in the first round should be an instant star…………and should never suffer injury. It’s the reason some called McCoy a bust after his first season. Like many first round choices, Hargreaves had all of the qualities in college that warranted his high ranking. He certainly was not a reach or “over-drafted” last year. He started as a rookie and kept a former Pro-Bowl player (Verner) on the bench for crying out loud. As you said, the time-frame for success can be affected by the player’s environment.
Hargreaves showed me enough to know he’s not a bust. At this point in Ronde’s stellar career, there were some doubts he’d even stay on the team. I hope fans wait to see how he does this coming year before judging too quickly.
I think your comment at the bottom of page 2 pretty much summed up how I feel about the pick. The Bucs have a ‘type’ of cb that they like and Hargreaves fits that type. Grimes, Elliot, and Jude. Two undrafted players and an old free agent. So why did we waste a 1st round pich on a player with such little value that you can find a similar player in the pool of undrafted players? As much as I hated the pick, if it was between VH3 and Rankins, I am glad they drafted VH3. In truth there was a stretch there in the middle of the 1st round where I didn’t like the players who were selected. There were much better players taken at the end of 1st and beginning of the 2nd, Noah Spence included.
I didn’t like the pick originally and still feel there was much more impactful players avaliable. But now that we have him and I see his tenacity, his love for the game and his team oriented rapport that he’s building with his buccaneers family. I see a guy that will be around for a very long time just like another undersized CB that made an ever lasting mark on this franchise. I see a guy that’ll have big plays for us in key moments just as Ronde did. VH3, when it’s all said and done, I believe will go down as one of the greats. I just have that feeling. You may argue that Barber was had with a 3rd round pick and that Hargreaves was taken at too high a cost. But with all the wasted first round duds. With all the possible misses that could be had there at pick 11 I’d take VH3 again. He’s going to be solid. When he catches up and the league seems just as vanilla as the preseason he’ll dominate just as he did during those exhibition games. If you’ll remember he graded out as the best corner in the league through the first 3 games.
After having the chance to watch Hargreaves a lot in college I wasn’t too keen on drafting him until I heard from a Gator that he played with some type of injury his last year at UF. As a rookie I thought he did fairly well. At least he played. Some newbies rarely even see the field. He has the athleticism and seems to have the willingness to put in the work to sharpen his mental approach. He should take a lesson or two from #20, who wasn’t much his rookie year when there were comparisons to Rod “Toast” Jones.
The whole situation reminds me of Ronde Barber. Remember there were people absolutely declaring Barber a bust for 2-3 years before It all clicked. Hargreaves looks to be ahead of Barber at this point but still a long way to go.
I’m glad to see someone actually break down film and point this out. At the end of the season when Hargreaves was getting all these accolades I was scratching my head.
Every game I watched, when a big play was made against us #28 was always there, on the ground or behind the receiver getting burned. Granted he’s a rookie and has a learning curve but I fail to understand how the coaching staff put him in as a starter week in and week out after he consistently would get burned. I figured they must know something I don’t know but then again, every big play, every touch down, who was covering? Hargreaves!
As #bodydenny pointed out it took Ronde a few years to get it down but he felt the heat that pushed him to get better. I don’t see our coaches do anything other than praise Hargeaves for his bad play. At least not in public. I hope it’s a different story in private. At least PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE STOP matching him against opponents best receivers as this writer has pointed out he clearly is not able to cover them. I may not be an NFL analyst or expert but EVERY game I watched, Hargreaves clearly appeared to be our weakest link on defense!
As to the writers point of him being targeted more than any other CB in the league the answer is simple: Darrell Reavis is called the “Island” for a reason. QB’s don’t throw that way because they know better. Conversely all the QB’s targeting Hargreaves targeted him for the same reason: They know better! They knew what we are just figuring out, that he is a liability and easy target. I hope his sophomore season improves vastly if not we need to address that position in FA or the draft.
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