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Bucs think rookie Vernon Hargreaves III is showing progress

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One month into his career, Tampa Bay Bucs rookie Vernon Hargreaves has played decently. But so far, he hasn’t made a major impact in the Bucs’ secondary.

That might change Monday night, when the Bucs play the NFC Champion Carolina Panthers and their big receivers Kelvin Benjamin and Greg Olson.

Hargreaves played last week on the outside for the Bucs rather than divide time.

“I think he likes it better, where he’s not moving in and out,” Bucs’ coach Dirk Koetter said. “But every player that plays multiple positions – we have receivers that do that – they’ve got to do what’s best for the team and that’s sometimes based on the other guys that you have available. We’re fortunate right now, we’re heavy in the secondary, heavy with guys. We’re really light in some other areas, just on numbers.”

Opponents haven’t thrown a lot at Hargreaves, Koetter said.

“He did fine,” Koetter said. “You’re not giving a whole lot of A’s when you get beat by three touchdowns on anybody. But he played fine. They weren’t throwing a ton of balls out there. We had a couple plays where we were too loose in the secondary. When we had pressures on, we were playing zone coverage. I actually talked to Vernon during the game about, ‘You’ve got to trust yourself, get up in there. Those are great receivers that Denver had, but heck, that’s why you’re here. Get up there and challenge them a little bit.’ And I think that’ll come with time.”

Defensive coordinator Mike Smith said Hargreaves, like many of the Bucs, needs to be more aggressive.

“I think we have to be a more aggressive team, not only in the play calling, but we’ve got to be aggressive in our mindset and be aware of where we are on the field, what the down and distance is and I think as a young player, sometimes you get overwhelmed as the game goes on,” Smith said. “We’ve got to be focused on what we’re defending, what we’re defending and there’s the right time to be aggressive and then there’s the right time to sit back and make sure that we are going to let them throw it in front of us.

“There was a couple of times that we were probably too aggressive and we missed some tackles, but overall I think as a unit we need to be more in-tune to when we can be aggressive and challenge. That’s the most important thing for us in the secondary right now.”

Smith said he was confident that Hargreaves can play outside.

“There’s no doubt that he can handle it,” Smith said. “He’s been put in a tougher situation when we’ve asked him to play inside because he’s so used to being the outside corner, that’s where he’s played the majority of his time there at the University of Florida. He’s got the skill set to be able to go inside and outside and again, as I think we progress and grow as a defensive football team, it’s going to give us some flexibility. We are not as flexible as we’d like to be, we’ve not gone on and advanced quite as well as I would’ve like and again, I’m learning these guys, they’re learning me and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do on Monday night.”

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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