Friday, November 24, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs rookie Vernon Hargreaves making strong bid to start

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA — While one highly drafted rookie struggles to kick the football straight, Vernon Hargreaves' confidence is soaring higher than the uprights after his two interceptions in the Bucs' 27-21 win over the Jaguars in a preseason game on Saturday.

The Bucs' rookie cornerback earned repetitions with the starting defense Monday, coach Dirk Koetter said.

"He was going to start working there today. He started working with the (No.) 1s at corner as well," Koetter said.

Second-round pick Roberto Aguayo said he is consulting a "mental coach" from IMG Academy after missing two field goals and an extra point in two preseason games. Meanwhile, Hargreaves, a first-round pick from Florida and Wharton High, has put himself in position to win a starting job by opening day, Sept. 11 at Atlanta.

Hargreaves had been playing the inside slot position on nickel passing downs when opponents went to three receivers. His first interception Saturday came from that position when he drifted into coverage and made a leaping grab on a pass from Chad Henne.

Hargreaves took advantage of Henne again near the start of the second half with a pickoff from cornerback. The difficult catches illustrate Hargreaves' superior hands and ball skills.

"Yeah, heck, I'm thinking about moving him to receiver," Koetter said. "Those were two great catches. Two beautiful plays. He ranged on the one when he was in nickel. Brent Grimes might argue, but you're not going to see a whole lot of better catches than those two plays."

Hargreaves, listed at 5 feet 10, 203 pounds, has had no trouble going up against taller receivers. It's unclear which cornerback spot Hargreaves would play but he would have to unseat either Brent Grimes or Alterraun Verner.

"They have to have good ball skills and our guys do," Koetter said. "They have to be explosive to the ball. Our guys are. They're not going to grow. We're not going to change them out at this point. Our corners are who they are. We're happy with them. We like what they're doing but they've got to be able to go get the ball."

Hargreaves, drafted 11th overall, had 10 interceptions and 38 passes defensed in three seasons for the Gators.

"The game's about the ball. That's the money," Hargreaves said. "Everything's about the ball. So I try to find a way to stay close to it and get my hands on it."

Hargreaves' first interception Saturday came with the score tied and 19 seconds left in the first half. He returned the pick to the Jaguars' 19-yard line, with a facemask penalty setting up Aguayo's field goal for a 17-14 lead. The second interception came 1:15 into the second half.

"I'm just trying to make a play — that's all it was," Hargreaves said. "Sticking to my keys, reading the quarterback and at the end of the day, you have to make a play."

Four of the Bucs' five interceptions in preseason have come from rookies — safeties Ryan Smith and Isaiah Johnson also have picked off passes, as has veteran Johnthan Banks.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected] and listen from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-AM 620. View his blog at tampabay.com/blogs/bucs. Follow @NFLStroud.

Comments
Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

Bucs players, coaches say they cherish getting game balls for special feats

TAMPA — In the jubilant moments after a Bucs win, Dirk Koetter will sometimes ask for a game-used ball from his equipment staff, hold it high in the locker room and present it to the player who was most crucial to the victory.NFL players can ask for ...
Updated: 11 hours ago

Koetter says Bucs not distracted by Jameis Winston’s off-field issue

The Bucs are 1-0 since news broke last Friday of Jameis Winston being accused by an Uber driver of groping her during a ride in March of 2016.That's really all the evidence coach Dirk Koetter needs to say the issue has not been a distraction to the t...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

Bucs journal: Gerald McCoy says team has not turned the corner yet

TAMPA — The Bucs have some positive momentum with back-to-back wins, but DT Gerald McCoy said it’s too soon to say his 4-6 team has turned a corner."We haven’t turned a corner yet," McCoy said Wednesday, preparing for Sunday’s game at Atlanta. "It’s ...
Published: 11/22/17
McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

The Bucs aren't faring well in early Pro Bowl fan voting, with DT Gerald McCoy as the only Tampa Bay player ranking in the top 10 at his position.McCoy, seeking his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection, ranks seventh among NFL defensive tackles, one wee...
Published: 11/22/17
NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Happy Thanksgiving! It's already week 12 of the NFL season, and the football feast is set to begin. It all starts at at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Lions try to win their fifth straight Thanksgiving Day game against a Minnesota team out to bec...
Published: 11/22/17
Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucs’ Hall of Fame semifinalists

Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucs’ Hall of Fame semifinalists

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman takes a closer look at the three former Bucs who are semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.He also looks at the constant churn on the Bucs’ practice squad and why Julio Jones’ stats have dropped off this season,...
Published: 11/22/17
Bucs’ Barber, Lynch, Rice among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Bucs’ Barber, Lynch, Rice among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Simeon Rice — teammates on the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl championship team — are among the 27 semifinalists to be considered for this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class.Lynch is a semifinalist for the sixth st...
Published: 11/22/17
Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

It’s a Thanksgiving Football Wednesday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones preview the Bucs-Falcons game, USF-UCF, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and more.The guys agree on the Bucs game outcome with Rick saying they can’t win. They also agree that Tha...
Published: 11/22/17
Bucs-Falcons: It’s time to start believing Miko Grimes

Bucs-Falcons: It’s time to start believing Miko Grimes

TAMPA — The most valuable player for the Bucs is Brent Grimes.It felt odd typing that, but it’s time to say it.In Grimes’ two seasons in Tampa Bay, the Bucs haven’t won a game without him. This season they are 4-3 when he plays, 0-3 when he doesn’t.H...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/22/17