We may not have talked about it much, but Vernon Hargreaves has been pretty impressive for a rookie — at least, as far as we can tell. The cornerback has missed just a handful of defensive snaps this season, and has largely played well with them. He’s rarely given up big plays, he has two passes defensed, 23 tackles, and he caused an interception against the Carolina Panthers.
The only thing holding him back from the top of any list of rookies is perhaps his lack of interceptions, but those are rare events in any case. Few cornerbacks have more than a couple in any given year, and we’re just five games into the season.
Mel Kiper seems to disagree, though. The ESPN analyst kept Hargreaves off his list of the top rookies in the NFL so far, which is probably a result of the Bucs’ low national profile, too.
While Hargreaves has been impressive, though, the rest of the Bucs rookies have been a disappointment. Noah Spence is struggling to get on the field because of his limited run defense skills, and can’t beat tackles with any consistency when he does play. Roberto Aguayo is close to a disaster, though he did at least kick a game-winning field goal, and no other rookies have gotten any appreciable playing time: Ryan Smith is a special teamer, Caleb Benenoch is inactive, Devante Bond is on injured reserve, and Dan Vitale went to the practice squad before being signed to the Cleveland Browns’ roster.
Which, well, is a pretty disappointing result so far. Of course, it’s far too easy to say anything about any of these players’ long-term impact on the team — that generally takes three or four years. I have high hopes for Spence, and Aguayo could easily turn things around.
And, of course, there’s Vernon Hargreaves, who looks like he’ll be a pretty good cornerback. So that’s good.