One of the biggest criticisms of the Buccaneers’ former coaching staff was that they didn’t play to the strengths of the guys on their roster. Not only did they set them up for failure in a lot of cases, but they often remained reluctant to adjust when things weren’t going as planned.
Perhaps no better example of that pattern exists than cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III. The 2016 first-round pick, despite being better suited to play press coverage, was asked to play off the ball in zone coverage under former defensive coordinator Mike Smith. The adjustments never really came, as Hargreaves struggled so much on the outside that the coaching staff decided to move him primarily inside to the nickel position.
Speaking with the media on Monday, Hargreaves acknowledged that Smith’s scheme was never a good fit for him.
Vernon Hargreaves said that he's a press corner, not an off corner, and said that it was tough to adjust to Mike Smith's defense.— PewterReport (@PewterReport) April 1, 2019
When he was moved to the slot, Hargreaves was far more successful. That was partly due to the ability to play to his strengths and cover guys man-to-man. Pro Football Focus came through with a good breakdown of his success in press coverage, though it’s worth mentioning that press coverage in the slot does differ from press coverage on the outside. Even still...
Hargreaves in 2017:— PFF TB Buccaneers (@PFF_Buccaneers) April 2, 2019
70 of 92 snaps were in press coverage, 7 of 55 CB in coverage grade when in press
201 of 342 snaps were in press coverage, 39 of 82 CB in coverage grade when in press https://t.co/1CCfAUWnmG
With Hargreaves moving back to his regular outside position to play the type of coverage he is used to playing, the Bucs are right to believe in him heading into 2019. Personally, I have bought into the idea in the past that Hargreaves is a better fit for the nickel position. But of course, I’m willing to admit to being wrong if the move back to the outside proves to be successful.
With as much confidence as Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles have in the former Florida Gator to play the outside position, I’m on board. I’m more than willing to believe that getting back to a scheme he is comfortable in will make all the difference in the world for Hargreaves.
Hargreaves is healthy, he has his confidence back and the scheme fit seems to be right for him. Maybe the Bucs don’t need a veteran corner after all. All aboard the VHIII hype train for 2019.