When the Buccaneers signed Alterraun Verner in 2014 they thought they were getting a Pro Bowl cornerback, and that’s exactly what the former UCLA standout was in Tennessee. Verner made the Pro Bowl in his fourth year with the Titans after breaking up an astonishing 22 passes in 2013 along with a career-high five interceptions and a pick-six during his lone Pro Bowl season. A willing tackler in run support, evidenced by a career-high 101 tackles as a rookie in 2010, Verner was deemed to be a good fit for Lovie Smith’s Tampa 2 scheme.
But in his first two years in Tampa Bay, Verner has underwhelmed and disappointed with just 13 pass breakups and three interceptions combined. Now playing in a much more familiar scheme similar to the one that he thrived in with the Titans, Verner is out to prove to himself, the Bucs organization and the fans that he can get back to playing at a Pro Bowl level.
Verner was one of the stars in the offseason, starting at right cornerback opposite Brent Grimes and keeping Johnthan Banks, another defensive back looking for a bounce-back year, on the second team during the OTAs and mini-camp. Can Verner continue his stellar play once the pads come on in training camp? Can he live up to his contract, which pays him $6.75 million this season – up from the $4.25 million he made a year ago?
The pressure is on in training camp as Verner not only wants to prove his worth, but prove that he can once again be one of the better playmaking cornerbacks in the NFL. There is no doubt that this is the biggest training camp in Verner’s NFL career. With multiple entries over the next four weeks, Verner will be sharing his training camp story exclusively with PewterReport.com readers in his Bucs Camp Diary. Follow along as Verner attempts to hold on to his starting right cornerback spot and sheds light on Tampa Bay’s revamped secondary, which includes the arrival of cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the Bucs’ first-round pick.
BIG HITS HELP SET THE TONE By Alterraun Verner as told to Scott Reynolds
All around, we want to be more aggressive defensively, and I think you saw that today with Major Wright’s hit on Brandon Myers in practice. It was a little high and maybe a bit late, but it set the tone. Big hits help set the tone. We were definitely trying to set the tone because the offense is trying to do that, too.
One of our young linebackers, Cassanova McKinzy, also had some big hits out there today. He had a big hit on Austin [Seferian-Jenkins] and one on Russell [Shepard]. He came out and was definitely setting the tempo. The coaches will probably tell him to tone it back a little bit, but I think that was his SEC style of play to be honest with you. That’s just what those guys do, but he came out and made a name for himself today.
Luke Rhoads is another young linebacker that is out there doing some good things for us. He’s been studying and you can tell that he’s a real student of the game. He’s been doing what he’s been told to do.
Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
The lightning and the rain came today in the middle of practice and we went in and didn’t do anything special. We just waited. Me and a couple of guys were just playing cards while we waited for the rain to pass. We knew we were going to come out and finish practice and get the work in that we needed, especially on the defensive side. I think it was a good day overall.
If you remember, we had a rain delay against Carolina last year and it happened here my first year against the Rams. It tends to happen in Tampa, so it’s actually good for it to happen in practice so that we’re used to it. You’re out here, you’re ready and you’re focused and out here for an hour and then you have to go back inside where it’s cool for an hour and then you have to come back out and re-focus. It’s good that we got to experience it.
Dirk Koetter’s message of the world not knowing how good we are yet resonated with me. I’m good with that because it’s the story of my life – having to prove yourself over and over again. For me it’s because I’m supposedly a smaller guy with a shorter stature that lacks speed. I always have to show the world that I can play, so I’m good with that and I think most of the guys on our team are the same way. I know Jameis is always big on saying “show me what you’ve got.”
Ronde Barber was out here today. I’ve spoken with him a few times, but not as much as I’ve liked to since I’ve been in Tampa. It’s always good to have an extra set of eyes with a guy that has been so successful playing your position. If you need a second opinion on something he’s willing to help because he’s here and he’s watching. It’s good to have him around because he was a smart player – a great player.
As a cornerback you also want to put on show when he’s here to show that we’re part of the next wave of Tampa Bay corners. Like us, Ronde wasn’t a big guy, but he got the job done for many, many years.
I don’t think I did anything today that really stood out, but I didn’t play bad. I didn’t have any mental busts. That’s the first thing I’m worried about – making sure I’m mentally sound. There were a couple of plays I probably could have made. There was a post that Mike Evans ran and if I seen it a little bit sooner I probably could have punched it out. Then there was a curl route that Mike ran that I saw, but it wasn’t really my play. I saw it and could have gone to get it, and I’m still transitioning from our old defense into being more of a playmaker now. Those are the two plays that stick out in my mind that I kind of left out on the field. I hate that feeling. Now I have to go in and watch those on film.
Bucs CB Brent Grimes – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/PR
Brent Grimes had another awesome day getting his hands on the ball with the interceptions. I started off on Thursday with a few pass breakups, but I’m a little mad because I couldn’t pull them down. But Grimes has been pulling them down, so he’s starting to run away with the [interception] title from me already. But it’s a long camp.
It goes back to what I’ve been telling you, that we’re going to be contesting a lot more passes this year. Even when we’re not making plays on the ball I think we’ve had a lot tighter coverage where Jameis – or whoever is the quarterback – really has to throw a great ball. I think that’s the difference you’re already starting to see, and the competition between me and Grimes and Vernon and Banks – that’s what is going to fuel us.
I’m looking forward to full pads tomorrow because we already saw some hitting today. You’re definitely going to see it tomorrow. There’s going to see a lot more physicality because that’s what we actually wear when you’re playing real football in a game. It’s going to be real fun mixing it up and getting back to full pads.
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