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 CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Mark Lomoglio/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.
THOSE JAGUARS RECEIVERS ARE SO EXPLOSIVE
By Alterraun Verner as told to Scott Reynolds
It felt good to go against Philadelphia last week, but I didn’t really feel like I got tested too much, so it was hard for me to really say how I played. I think for the most part I really did my job. I made the tackles I was supposed to make. But there are still some small things I need to work on, but that was going to happen in the first preseason game. For the most part, it was okay.
It was very encouraging to see the pass rush from our front four. Every time I looked at the quarterback he was running for his life, so that’s a good sign.
We held Philly to minus-1 passing yards for most of the first half, and I feel like most of that is contributed to the pass rush. You can’t have minus yardage unless there’s a sack somewhere in there, so I give most of the credit to the defensive line. For the most part, the secondary did its job too, not making it easy for the quarterback. But the D-line came humming. Kudos to them.
Penalties and turnovers are still an issue for us, unfortunately. Coach [Dirk] Koetter was upset. Not just him, the whole team – we were very upset about that. That’s something that we’ve been harping on – cutting down the penalties. And we still had them and they cost us. You can agree or not agree on some of the calls, but still, we had too many. Turnovers were also bad – minus-3 or minus-4 – you don’t want to ever do that. It’s hard to win ball games like that.
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves III – Photo courtesy of the Buccaneers
As well as we played on defense we still gave up 14 points, even though we were backed up (after the turnovers). We had two opportunities where we had them on third downs and they found a way to score. You definitely can’t have that. That’s something that we’ve looked at and we have to shore up that red zone defense. That’s something that hurt us last year. We have to hold teams to field goals when they get down there – or take the ball away.
Through it all Coach Koetter remained very calm in our meetings, but he has a very serious tone. I wouldn’t say he was yelling or it was a mean tone, but you know he’s about business when he’s talking so he demands peoples’ respect. And he’s going to treat you with the same type of respect. That’s what I get mostly from his meetings.
There has been some discussion (in the media) about Vernon [Hargreaves] dropping his interception. We as players already knew that it was big, so we didn’t give him any grief about it. There wasn’t really a point of beating a dead horse.
We’ve all been there when you drop an interception. I’ve dropped plenty in my career, so it was more words of encouragement as in, ‘When you get that next opportunity we expect you to make that play.’ But we weren’t beating up on him. That’s football and that’s going to happen. We know what type of football player he is, so that was just uncharacteristic and we know that’s not going to happen too many times.
The fact that Vernon is playing both the nickel and outside corner shows a lot about how smart he is. It’s very tough to do. If he just did the nickel position, that’s already a lot. For him to have the capacity to do both and excel at both that speaks volumes about him and it’s just going to make him a better player.
In case you are wondering, I don’t have a roommate during training camp like some of the guys do. That’s because I’m an older guy. I haven’t had one in Tampa. I had a roommate all the time in Tennessee, but not here in Tampa. Some guys like having a private room, but I’m the opposite. I kind of like having a roommate, because I always have that fear that I might oversleep or something.
And you don’t have that person to help you out. If you have questions during the week or something, you have to call or go to somebody else’s room instead of having a roommate to talk it through. So I kind of liked having a roommate. It’s not one of those things where I need to be by myself.
Bucs CB Alterraun Verner – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
I’m looking forward to practicing against Jacksonville. It’s going to be fun, especially, for some of the other guys and myself that came from the Titans and went against the Jaguars so much. It’s going to be fun going against them. I know a few guys over there so it’ll be fun to compete. They have some talent on offense and defense, so it’ll be a good gauge for us to get better. And they have some big guys at receiver in Allen Robinson and Allen Hurns.
They made a lot of plays against us last year. I think they both might have had over 100 yards on us, or very close to it. Those Jaguars receivers are just so explosive, and since they’re young, they’re still learning the game so their potential ceiling is so high with them being as big as they are and then Blake Bortles having that rapport with them. So that’s big, them having that time together.
Bortles has really improved and he has the talent around him, with Julius Thomas at tight end and the running backs. Things are looking up for them. That’s going to be a good group of guys coming up as they grow and as they build and stay injury-free – just like us.
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”
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]
Always thought Verner wasn’t being used correctly and it made him look worse when there was no pass rush. I’m starting to feel like we do have a pass rush; at least it’s better than what we had before and will make the DB’s look better. Go Bucs!
Pass Rush is sooo important to how your secondary performs! Now that Tampa Bay actually has one we will see a lot more pass break ups and INTs this year. I expect Verner to have a stellar season this year. Definitely need to cut down the penalties, 5 or less/game and no “illegal formation” (know the rules) or “unsportsmanlike conduct” (control your emotions.
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