FAB 3. The Wait Is Over For Hargreaves

I wrote about Vernon Hargreaves III just a month ago in a previous edition of SR’s Fab 5. His position coach Kevin Ross touted Hargreaves as a potential NFL Comeback Player of the Year award candidate.

I typically don’t feature the same player again so soon in my column unless something has changed, but Hargreaves is different. His story is compelling as a former first-round pick that is trying to shed the “bust” label some have applied to his four-year career in Tampa Bay.

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Hargreaves had a very good training camp and a very good preseason – kind of like he did a year ago when his confidence was restored and he looked like the player general manager Jason Licht expected when he drafted the Florida cornerback with the 11th overall pick. Hargreaves had a tremendous showing in the first half of last year’s 48-40 opening day win in New Orleans with seven tackles, a pass breakup and a key forced fumble before a severe shoulder injury prematurely ended his season in the third quarter.

After ending the 2017 season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury, Hargreaves has missed 22 of the last 23 Buccaneers regular season games. To say that he is anxiously awaiting Sunday’s season opener at San Francisco would be a gross understatement.

“I can’t wait,” Hargreaves said. “I’ve been ready since I got hurt in Week 1 because as an athlete you know when you’re hurt. I knew once it happened that I was going to be out the whole year. It hurt too bad. That first day after the injury, I was already thinking about this year. Now it’s here and I’m ready to go.”

Hargreaves weighed 204 pounds for the NFL Scouting Combine in 2016, but has leaned down in Tampa Bay in an effort to increase his speed. After playing at 188 pounds last year, Hargreaves has bulked up to 195 while still maintaining his speed and quickness.

“I feel like I’m better because I’m stronger than I was at this point last year,” Hargreaves said. “I got in the weight room a little bit more. I feel stronger than I was at this point last year. I started taking my body a little more seriously. It took me too long, but hey, everybody has to learn. I learned my lesson. Surgery is not fun. I tried to do better this year by staying stronger. I feel faster. Mentally, I’ve been through a lot, so I’m excited and ready to go.”

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Getty Images

Hargreaves was a press-man coverage cornerback at Florida and did everything but play that style of football in his first three years in Mike Smith’s Quarters defensive scheme, which featured defensive backs sometimes playing eight to 10 yards off the wide receiver with a ridiculous amount of cushion. In Todd Bowles defense, Hargreaves is back to playing right in receivers’ faces up on the line of scrimmage.

“I love it,” Hargreaves said. “It’s easier when you can disrupt routes and get in guys’ faces. Going to back to how I was raised and where I grew up – I’m a coach’s kid. I’ll never complain. I had to learn. I never played off [coverage] before. Going to back to college I never played off. I had to learn how to backpedal. I learned how to break out from my backpedal. I had to learn how to react. I had to learn how to read the quarterback and I did all this while I was trying to play on Sundays, too. It was tough for me. My first [three years] were average. I didn’t play. I missed 20-some games. My first year was all right. My second year I started slow and got hurt.”

And last year was just a waste as he only played three quarters before injuring his shoulder. As time has progressed, Hargreaves, who is entering his fourth year in the league as the most experienced cornerback on the team, has grown up and is ready to become the defender the Bucs drafted in the first round.

“For me, the younger Vern was learning how to play defensive back,” Hargreaves said. “There was more to it than just pressing a guy. There was more to it. I had to learn how to play off coverage and learn how to read the quarterback if you want to make plays. That’s all it was. I was trying to learn how to play cornerback in the National Football League – not in college. Everybody said I was good in college, but this isn’t college. It’s not the same. These guys are good and they know what they’re doing.

“I never did any of that stuff in college because in college we were going to blitz you, we were going to plan man on the outside. It was simple and I did that for three years at UF. I get here and they have a guy like Brent Grimes that could play off better than anybody in the world and they bring me in and expected the same thing and it just didn’t happen. Then everybody is looking at me all crazy and like, ‘What’s going on?’ I was picked 11th overall and if you’re picked that high you have to come in and play. I understood that coming in, but hey, I’m here now.”

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Mary Holt/PewterReport.com

New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians has been thrilled with how Hargreaves has performed in Bowles’ scheme.

“First of all he’s healthy,” Arians said. “This is the healthiest he’s been in a couple years. He’s also bought in to the system. It’s what he did very well at Florida. Press-man, bail – some things like Quarters that he’s played before. He’s such a bright guy that he sees why we do things so he can execute it very well.”

At age 24, Hargreaves is still considered to be a young cornerback by league standards, but in his position room, he’s now the elder statesman in a room full of rookies and second-year players.

“It is cool,” Hargreaves said. “You’re going to sick of hearing this phrase, but how I was raised as a coach’s kid I’ve been around it and I see it. I know what coaching and leadership is like. I watched my dad and I was in his meeting room since I was little. I know how you can’t talk to everybody the same way because everybody is different. I’m not shy. The younger guys see that and they know I’m someone that they can talk to. They see my struggles. I’m just like them – just older. They see me hurt, but they also see me play well.”

Hargreaves hears some of the noise in the media about how young the Bucs secondary is, but shrugs it off.

“People are going to talk – whether we do good or we do bad,” Hargreaves said. “Whether we are young or whether we are old – somebody is going to have something to say. That’s just the NFL. That’s life. We’re not worried about that. We’re worried about one day at a time. We’ve got the 49ers on Sunday and we’ll see how it goes.

“We’ve got to be aggressive. We play defense. That’s the name of the game on defense. We have to fly around and we have to get to the ball. We have to be technically sound.”

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

For a man who has missed nearly two dozen games over the past two years, Sunday can’t come soon enough for Hargreaves, who like Ross, his position coach, believes he’s got a big year in store.

“It’s hard to sleep [the night before the season opener], but in my mind, the main thing is eating right, watching film and relaxing,” Hargreaves said. “It’s not that big of a deal for me – just eating right, staying hydrated. I definitely don’t sleep. It’s pretty normal. We’re all going to be hyped. I don’t think anyone is going to sleep. It’s going to be fun. We’re going to be ready to go.”

Finally.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 24th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his son's Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]

24 COMMENTS

  1. Well, one thing is for sure: it never works out like we think it’s going to. Some team will get a big injury (or two), some team won’t suffer any (hello Atlanta 2016 season), some players will nose-dive their careers and some player(s) will emerge across the league to be the “next great things” that currently look like JAGs.

    I’m sticking with 16-0 at this point.

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    Rating: +43. From 43 votes.
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  2. Think if they can roll the Lions and Texans, they’ll still take care of the Colts and Falcons. The pass rush will be in full effect and are able to give the offense enough chances to figure it out. Optimistic of course. This offensive line really makes you go hmmm….

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    Rating: +18. From 18 votes.
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  3. As for Devin White not being named team captain no big deal. He’s going to have enough on his plate without having to also carry the C on his chest. Besides, how do you vote a rookie who’s never taken a snap in an NFL regular season game a team captain? I think he’ll be wearing that C for years to come, but it has to be earned, he hasn’t done anything in the NFL to earn it. The big surprise for me is Nissab. Didn’t know he was so well respected, and such a character. A defense needs a fire starter, they take that lead. Maybe that’s why we were so ho hum it’ll be O.K. when McCoy was here.

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    Rating: +19. From 21 votes.
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  4. Poor offensive line play can be overcome by proper scheme. The success or failure of this season is in the lap of Byron Leftwich & Todd Bowles. Every NFL team has weaknesses but the good ones know how to manage their Weaknesses while capitalizing on their Strengths. Bruce Arians is tasked with maximizing the talent we have on this roster and not make excuses for scheduling,injuries or any other thing that will arise this season. I don’t know what our record will be but if BA is anything like advertised we should be extremely competitive with the talent that’s on this roster. Palm Palms waiving Go Bucs!!

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    Rating: +13. From 15 votes.
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  5. Sorry Scott, but I see the Bucs splitting the two games with the Saints. Our defensive starters, less D White, have already played against the Drew Brees-led offense at least twice, including Suh. They haven’t played our new defense, which I believe is big step up from last year’s defense. We’ll apply a lot more pressure on Brees than years past. I don’t see anybody on the Saints defense who can cover OJ Howard. I think M Evans gets the best of M. Lattimore once again, and Godwin has at least one good game against that secondary. I don’t think the Saints defensive line is anywhere near as good as Carolina’s, LA’s, or SF’s.

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    Rating: +9. From 11 votes.
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  6. If you saw the Gruden comments about running backs picking up the blitz and how he pointed out Dare Ogunbowale’s missed assignment on one of Cleveland’s sacks it made me feel better about the o-line. It is one thing if the guys simply can’t win one on one and another thing if there are missed assignments that can be cleaned up.

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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  7. I’m really hoping this is VHIII’s year. I’ve been a fan since his college years, and was glad the Bucs selected him in 2016. I knew my faith in him was justified for about 30 minutes of play against the Saints in week 1 last year. Pray he stays healthy and plays up to his potential, which I believe would put him as a top 10 CB in the league.

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    Rating: +7. From 9 votes.
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  8. I had already stated I hoped for 8-8, as that would be a successful season for this franchise at this point and keep things stable for next year. We get a true indication if it is at all possible this weekend. If the Bucs cannot beat the 49ers at home all bets are off. Note: I don’t agree about the Titans. I think by the 8th game it will be not Mariotta but Ryan Tannenhill from the Dolphins playing at QB. Hopefully the outcome is the same.

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    Rating: +7. From 9 votes.
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  9. The outcome will be the same, Tannehill is not an upgrade.
    Still disappointed that Pewter Report has spoiled the season for me by telling me the outcome of the games before I have watched them.

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    Rating: +9. From 11 votes.
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  10. Having hope propels Bucs to achieve the Glazzers dream and drives the Bucs forward toward its pursuits.”HOPE”  keeps a smile on pewterboys, spitfire the chef as everything seems to go wrong, even when we see that we’re losing. Hope is always the light at the end of the tunnel, The Bucs gallon cannons ready to navigate the team through trials and difficulties of 49ers , Panthers and Giants to a great day. It’s about game 6 when we lose that hope, Bucs are like a rudderless ship being tossed about without direction. Chef and fredster blaming everything but the team while still having and finding hope with response to each Pewter article, It essential for keeping our dreams upright and continuing to sail in the direction above last place NFC south.

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    • I don’t know who wrote this, but this is not the regular usual Bob. Someone must’ve hacked his account. There’s punctuation, sentence structure, and an almost poetic flow to some of the sentences. I wouldn’t be surprised to find out this is Mark Cook trolling you guys lmao.

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      • I’ve often speculated that there really wasn’t an actual person known as my old nemesis Bucfan47 or our current resident cesspool bather, Buc Ass Bob. In realty the author of the constant negative babble with that by-line is actually an unnamed Pewter Report intern. Fess up Scott.

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    • Difference between you and I BAB is that whether this team wins or loses, I’ll be here to comment. Heaven for bid Tampa balls out this year and you disappear like the troll you are. That’s a dream I think all of us could get on board with.

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  11. These people that we pay to talk…they talk. Can’t be surprised what happens when you pull Chatty Kathy’s string. My good friend from Chicago, now that he’s done cussing his TV and throwing his remote control, will say you never know what you’re going to get until game day.

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    • Bears fans sure thought victory was assured after the first half-dozen plays. Talk about shooting your wad.

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  12. I still got us at 8-8. If we had a bigtime pass rush, I’d up it to 10-6. You never know though. IF our Bucs can come out of the gate at 3-0, we might have something here. But they gotta start fast..real fast. Here’s to a great season.

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  13. Really good hearing that Howard said they may need to chip. That is the key and you saw the TEs do a lot of chipping and blocking for the Patriots in their power blocking scheme. Auclair and Howard are both good blockers. Put them both on the outside and we can neutralize the 49er’s pass rush. Get our power blocking going and our RBs will get to the second level and our Offense will flourish. Can’t wait!

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    Rating: +6. From 6 votes.
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  14. There’s so much to comment on, but I’m going to focus on just one thing:
    Carolina is hosting the Rams on opening day, so if you think they’re going to be 100% come Thursday night think again. The Bucs have a really good shot at a 2-0 start.

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    Rating: +7. From 7 votes.
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  15. My first ever Bucs game was a closing 3 seconds loss to a Green Bay field goal. I used to listen to us get trampled on the Radio when I was a kid because we were never on TV for Home Games. I was born the year before we lost Doug Williams so I have known what it is like to be a fan of a basement dweller. Win or Lose I am still a Bucs Fan… Till the end. I don’t believe like the Trolls do that praying for losses in the hopes of the Glaziers selling the team is at all what being a Bucs Fan is about. I root for My Team year in and year out because they are My Team, no matter how ugly things get. Granted things get so bad sometimes that I have to turn the volume up and go sit in the other room to listen because I can’t bare to watch at certain moments. Granted my Wife has to tell the kids “Don’t get scared when Daddy is yelling at the TV during Bucs games, it’s just because he cares.”

    Yes I choose to have Hope for the Bucs, always. Not because I’m too blind to see our faults, or admit we have weaknesses and have made mistakes. I have Hope because I Love My Team. I have Hope because there is always the possibility of a Win. I have Hope because even though things can always be worse, they can also always get better. I have Hope because no matter what, I will always wear that Flag with pride and root for My Team and hope for the day I get to sit on the couch during the Super Bowl, afraid to move from the same spot out of Superstition in hopes that We can win another one.

    I am Hoping for a 10 win season, but I know that is gonna take a real turnaround for this team this year. If we don’t get that it’s not gonna shatter my Hope, because if you give up Hope on Life there’s no reason to Live. If you give up hope on yourself then you’ll never accomplish anything, and if you give up Hope on Your Team, then there’s no reason to be a Fan. I am a Firefighter and a Paramedic, so I have seen things that would make most people Hope-less, only to have the outcome be Hope-full. I have seen Death and brought back Life, because I held onto Hope. Sometimes Hope is all you have, and anyone that tries to take that away from you is just miserable and sad. So I choose Hope… and I am not ashamed at all.

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    Rating: +8. From 8 votes.
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    • Wow. That was a deep post. You beared your soul. Appreciate the hard work you do as a first responder. Also, hope is a great thing! Keep your hope alive, especially for the Bucs!

      You sound like a really passionate fan. Try not to get too upset though. It’s a game being played by millionaires and managed by billionaires.

      That said, this season and team feels different. I actually think these guys can win 12. I think there are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the upcoming season. Enjoy the ride!

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      • *bared

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    • Loved your passionate post Spitfire. Sounds a lot like the past 40 plus years of my Bucs Life. Even in the most dire times, I somehow managed to have a little hope. That 1979 Worst to First season kept me thinking it could happen again.

      I started off every new season telling my wife, “This is the year.” Heck, once I was right. Many times I just wished we weren’t the worst team in the league. Bucs didn’t win much, but each of those times when the opponent probably lost more than the Bucs actually won, my spirit was energized. If nothing else, I always have hope….. even if logic tells me otherwise.

      Guys like Buc Ass Bob and others, who protect their own fragile psyche by limiting their expectations, mark down a loss in their mind before the team even takes the field. Then if the Bucs “luck out” a victory, they quickly add an asterisk noting “should have lost”.

      I sure hope (there’s that word again) Bob never gets sick. He’d never believe he had a chance to be cured and would start making his own funeral arrangements. Then, if he survived, he’d put an asterisk on the headstone marking his vacant plot, *I should have died.”

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  16. I have no clue what we’re going to do.
    Just have zero confidence to predict anything, but to say Go Bucs! Get this win!

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  17. Good Fab 5, Scott. I have us going 8-8 and with a little help from the Football Gods, 10-6. [Yes, Football Gods drink KoolAide too.] Also liked your preseason take aways – good objective assessment. One big difference this year going into the regular season is that if feels like the coaching staff gives us the chance for the upside and puts a safety net under this team for the downside. Injuries are always a wild card, but I like our chances with this staff.

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