Buccaneers CB Alterraun Verner is impressed with rookie CB Vernon Hargreaves - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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.
Bucs CBs Alterraun Verner and Brent Grimes – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
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.
I DON’T VIEW VERNON HARGREAVES AS A THREAT
By Alterraun Verner as told to Scott Reynolds
I got a lot of good work up in Jacksonville last week. Their receivers were a little bigger than the Eagles receivers and a little faster than our guys. Throughout the week I enjoyed it immensely. We all got some good work in. From top to bottom their receiving corps is very talented.
In the game we were up and down. We started off good with the three-and-out, but we shot ourselves in the foot on the next two drives that they scored on. We could have made some plays to stop them, but we did some technical things that we need to correct. They were small things that were adjustable and we don’t need to fret about it. We did make some progress, especially as a secondary, by getting our hands on some balls. We’re only going to get better.
I know we’ve gotten off to some slow starts the last two years and even during the first two games this year, but I’m not worried about it. I always take everything with a grain of salt. This is the preseason. We haven’t unveiled a lot of the things that we’re going to be doing. I’m looking at this from a technical standpoint and a mental standpoint first and foremost. You like to never get down early. It’s not something we’re happy about, but we’re not fretting about it because we are still doing a lot of good things and we’re working towards that September 11 game at Atlanta.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
Vernon Hargreaves was brought in for his playmaking ability. What you saw in Jacksonville with the two picks was the Vernon we saw in OTAs when he was leading the team in interceptions. Some people might be happy or surprised by what he did in Jacksonville, but honestly, that’s something we expect from Vernon, and that’s what he expects from himself. It’s exciting to see him get his first one and then to get another one. I think his confidence went through the roof. His play has been outstanding.
Vernon isn’t afraid of the big lights of the NFL. He’s not afraid of this one bit. He has a lot to work on and he asks a lot of questions of Brent [Grimes] and I, and that’s what is so impressive about him. He learns and he executes.
Ryan Smith, our rookie safety, also got his first interception in Jacksonville. He’s learning the safety position, which is new for him. That’s very demanding, just like it is for Vernon learning the nickel position after playing outside at corner. Ryan has been taking it in stride. He came in and made a play like Vernon.
They brought those two guys in to make those types of plays because they have that kind of playmaking ability. Those two guys have a bright future on this team and they’re only going to get better. They haven’t peaked one bit, and that’s the exciting thing about them.
Vernon’s success doesn’t necessarily put a sense of urgency on me just because he’s getting some first-team reps now. I don’t look at this competition as if I have to beat him out. I look at it as being the best I can be. Vernon making plays gets me excited because I want to make those plays, too.
You can’t force that to happen, though. The one thing he’s done is waited for his opportunities. After having a lot of picks in OTAs he didn’t have many interceptions in camp, and then he got two in the game at Jacksonville and he got two in practice today against the Browns. He’s taken advantage of the plays that have come his way. That goes for all of us and that’s how we have to approach it.
I don’t view Vernon Hargreaves as a threat. We’re all out here competing, and it’s all love. We love each other and we’re all trying to make each other better. Him having success makes me happy because that means this defense is going to play well – and that’s what it is all about. I’m not losing sleep over Vernon – not one bit. I’ve played this game too long to know that. Him making plays fuels me, and fuels all of us. That’s a good thing. He’s getting everybody excited.
I’m excited about the way Vernon is playing. He’s picking right up from where he left off at Jacksonville with two more picks today. He stood out today. Javien Elliot made a couple of nice plays on the ball today. Johnthan Banks continued his strong play today. Those were the three notables that I saw in today’s practice from our defense.
Browns WR Corey Coleman – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Browns are going to help us defend the vertical passing game. I think you’ve seen in these last two preseason games they’ve had long, deep throws downfield. RGIII still has his arm. I think that’s how they are going to challenge us. They have receivers that can make plays. Josh Gordon is back. Corey Coleman is out here and Terrelle Pryor has been doing an amazing job for them. They definitely have some vertical threats and some run-after-catch guys. That’s going to make us better.
Friday’s preseason game against the Browns will likely be the final preseason game for us vets. That’s usually how it works, and we usually get the most work in this one. I’m looking for better execution from our defense. We need to make more plays and not shoot ourselves in the foot. On third-and-10, we need a stop with no penalties. No self-inflicted wounds heading into the season. This one is on national TV, too, so it should be fun.
Follow Alterraun Verner on Twitter at @Alvern_1 and on Instagram at ATV1UCLA.
Be sure to visit PewterReport.com multiple times throughout the day during training camp for new stories and updates from practice live from One Buccaneer Place, and follow us on Twitter at @PewterReport.
Read more exclusive Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diaries on PewterReport.com right here:
First Installment – Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “I’ve Got A Lot To Prove”
Second Installment – Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “Big Hits Help Set The Tone”
Third Installment – Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “We’re Getting More Picks This Year”
Fourth Installment – Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “I’ve Taken Reps Fielding Kicks And Punts”
Fifth Installment – Verner’s Bucs Training Camp Diary: “Those Jaguars WRs Are So Explosive”
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd 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 enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
Another good article by Alterraun. I’ve been really impressed with our DB’s thus far in the preseason. I have to admit, I was one of those people questioning our height in the backfield, but these guys have put that to rest for me. Good Job out there guys.
I was surprised to hear that VHIII got two picks at practice. As I was watching the NFL Networks’ new morning show, they were quick to point out two picks by Hayden, but nothing was said of VHIII’s picks. This really ticks me off! In fact, that whole network this summer has been very disappointing. They only really cover about 8 teams total, and maybe 6 consistently. Where is the respect for the other teams? Namely, the Bucs. But I got a feeling that it is about to change. Go Bucs!
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