The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been pleasantly surprised with how well first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves has adjusted to the NFL. He started out as a backup slot cornerback in training camp, and worked his way up to the starting outside cornerback role in just three preseason games. The Bucs weren’t the only ones to be impressed: Pro Football Focus’ Neil Hornsby named him as one of five rookies who really stood out this preseason.
The Bucs traded down in the first round to get Hargreaves at No. 11, and he’s more than justified his spot so far. It’s rare for stat lines to tell an adequate story but maybe this is one of those times. Playing right corner and in the slot Hargreaves has been in coverage for 54 opposition dropbacks. He’s been targeted eight times, allowed one reception for two yards, intercepted two balls and knocked down another. The passer rating against him: 0.0.
Those are some impressive statistics, though we should note that mostly, he produced those stats with the second-team defense while barely being thrown at. He’s faced Robert Griffin III, Chase Daniel, Carson Wentz, Chad Henne and a little bit of Blake Bortles. We’re not talking an all-star cast of quarterbacks, here.
The real test will come when Hargreaves faces good quarterbacks throwing to good receivers. Week one will be a good one: Matt Ryan and Julio Jones will host the Bucs in Atlanta. If Hargreaves can hold his own against that cast of players, then that’ll be a really promising sign. If he can’t, well, that’s to be expected for rookie cornerbacks.