Vernon Hargreaves will be challenged on Sunday – Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
It would be difficult, if not impossible, to find a more challenging receiver for a rookie corner to face in his first NFL game than Julio Jones. That’s the task at hand for Vernon Hargreaves III this Sunday in Atlanta.
While the Bucs first-round pick isn’t expected to shadow the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver throughout the game, Hargreaves will see time at both outside and nickel corner, inevitably lining up against Jones on occasion. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith thinks this is a great welcome test into the NFL.
“Vernon is a very competitive guy and we’ve brought him along where he can play both inside and outside,” Smith said. “He’s going to get his opportunities to get matched up against Julio in this ball game. There’s no better way to measure where you’re at than going against one of the best receivers in the NFL.
“And Julio is one of the top receivers.”
Smith would know. He was the head coach in Atlanta when the team traded up 20 spots in 2011 to nab the Alabama product, and he, along with then-offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter, helped guide Jones to his first two of three Pro Bowls in 2012 and 2014.
Photo by Cliff Welch/PR
In five seasons, Jones has 414 receptions for 6,201 yards, leading the league in both categories last season with 136 catches for 1,871 yards. Hargreaves, meanwhile, spent two years in high school and three at Florida during that time, establishing himself as Top 15 pick in his own right. But this is a new game.
Hargreaves was asked if he looks forward to the challenge.
“Oh, of course,” Hargreaves said at his locker. “You know I do, of course … (Jones is) one of the best. Everybody knows what comes with that, so you know we’re getting ready to go.”
Hargreaves performed as advertised this summer. The former Gator drew praise for his natural movement and ability in practice and later showed it in Week 2, with two highlight reel-interceptions in Jacksonville. Once competing solely at the nickel spot, the effort earned him reps at both cornerback positions and he hasn’t looked back.
Hargreaves will begin the season as one of the Bucs starting cornerbacks, and when the defense shifts into their five-defensive back package, the 5-foot-10 pro is expected to assume the nickel role. In other words, he’ll stay on the field.
“That’s the best way to do it,” Hargreaves said. “Never come off the field.”
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: [email protected]
Wow Julio is a tough start. I like Hargreaves a lot. I think the kid was a great pick. Great match up at Falcons for Buc’s to start season also.Go Buc’s! Getting excited and ready for it to start.
He’ll take his licks as a rookie, but Hargreaves is legit.
As I mentioned after the draft, I was not big on the Hargreaves pick, and Week 1 is an example why. Hargreaves is very undersized. Receivers like Julio Jones (who he plays twice a year) that are big and athletic have a huge genetic (yes I say genetic) advantage against Hargreaves. It is like a 280 pound MMA fighter taking on Bruce Lee. As much as I LOVE Bruce Lee, he doesn’t have a chance, just because he would be physically oversized by a competent competitor (and don’t bring in the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar comments, that was just a movie). I am rooting for the kid, but I think the physical tools might be lacking.
Arizonajoe I guess Darell Reevis lacks the physical tools needed to be an effective CB too at 5’11”?
Guess since Brent Grimes is 5’10” also he’s not an outstanding CB? Lol. Maybe let the kid play before you say he’s too short?
Hargreaves height is not an issue at all for me. Ronde was pretty good and he was shorter then Vernon. If “length” was so vital, we’d see a lot more focus on GM’s finding taller CB’s. Hip flexibility, vertical leap, body control, hand-eye coordination and film study are more important than height. Maybe we should cross-train the 6-7 Mike Glennon and see if he can cover Julio. That would look like a stork chasing a gazelle.
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