FAB 5. SR’s Buc Shots
• Overconfidence in a team’s own players can be dangerous. So can overconfidence in a team’s coaching staff’s ability to effectively develop talent. Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, who is entering his third season, could be the next coming of Ronde Barber or Brian Kelly – two former Bucs cornerback that took three years to develop into solid starters, unlike other Tampa Bay cornerbacks Donnie Abraham and Dwight Smith, who made immediate impacts as rookies.
Or Hargreaves could stagnate and become the player he has shown to be over his first two years in the league – an inconsistent young player, who struggles with confidence and lacks playmaking skills, evidenced by just one interception in 25 games. Bucs general manager Jason Licht needs to hope for the best but plan for the worst and expect Hargreaves to be a bust and try to replace him this offseason rather than waiting.
The Bucs used the same approach with Barber and Kelly back in the late 1990s. Tampa Bay was afraid Barber, a third-round pick in 1997 was going to be a bust so it invested a second-round pick in Kelly the next year to replace him. Eventually, both Barber and Kelly developed into starters and led Tampa Bay to its first and only Super Bowl win in 2002.
The Bucs cannot expect Hargreaves to take the next step and live up to his first-round draft billing in 2018. That cannot be assumed. Make him prove it and draft or sign his replacement to provide Hargreaves adequate competition that either pushes him to excel and turn into a great starting cornerback, or pushes him out the door.
• With the schedules of the PewterReport.com staff clashing this week due to covering the East-West Shrine practices in St. Petersburg, we weren’t able to record a new Pewter Nation Podcast. However, we plan on doing two new Pewter Nation Podcasts next week live from Mobile, Ala. where Trevor Sikkema and I will be covering the Senior Bowl, while Mark Cook covers Gerald McCoy and Kwon Alexander in Orlando at the Pro Bowl.
Our first Pewter Nation Podcast will be taped in Mobile on Monday night where we will discuss the draft prospects from the East-West Shrine Game, preview the Senior Bowl and discuss what we learned from speaking with Bucs sources this week, including general manager Jason Licht. Our second Pewter Nation Podcast will be recorded in Mobile for Thursday where we will dive into the draft prospects from the Senior Bowl and whatever other nuggets of information about the Bucs that we learn from our contacts.
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• There was an interesting article in the Orlando Sentinel detailing how grueling Jacksonville’s training camp was this past summer and how that fueled the Jaguars’ playoff run to the AFC Championship Game. The article was music to my ears, as I and the PewterReport.com staff have been lamenting the fact that Tampa Bay had the softest training camp I’ve ever covered in my two decades on the Bucs beat without any live contact or live tackling periods.
New head coach Doug Marrone took away the ping-pong table in the locker room to create a workmanlike attitude at the Jaguars headquarters, and made the players run gassers after practice for penalties that occurred during their scrimmages. Here’s a snippet:
They also designed an offseason program that was more grueling than most players had experienced. Marrone’s message was clear: Go hard or go home.
“You remember guys in camp talking about this took a few years off their lives,” Jaguars DT Malik Jackson said. “It’s pretty funny just to see us now. I guess he does know what he’s doing.”
The Jaguars were in full pads nearly every day during training camp, a tortuous stretch in draining heat and humidity that left rookies and veterans questioning the process and wondering if it would pay off. It was the NFL’s version of boot camp. Break them down, then build them up.
It ultimately brought players closer, making them accountable to each other and causing them to care more for each other. Winning was the final piece, and thumping Houston 29-7 in the season opener was all the proof players needed.
“It was the toughest training camp I’ve ever been a part of,” said linebacker Paul Posluszny, in his 11th season. “Coach Marrone would talk to us and say, ‘Listen, I have a plan and you have to trust me.’ With that, guys were able to say, ‘OK, we haven’t gotten what we wanted in years past doing things a certain way, so we have to buy in, trust the head man and know that that’ll bring us success when it’s time.’
“It was difficult just because of so many changes from what we were used to. I think the most important thing is we always said, ‘Well, if it helps us win, then it’s all good.’”
After seeing how rigorous training camps under Bucs head coaches Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden led to a combined seven playoff berths, four division titles and one Super Bowl victory, I would love to see Dirk Koetter follow Marrone’s script to see what happens in 2018. His “Soft Knocks” approach to Tampa Bay’s televised training camp last year and goal of getting everyone healthy for the season opener did result in an opening day win against Chicago, but injuries quickly set in the week after and Koetter’s soft training camp did the Bucs no favors the rest of the season.