Since being drafted 11th overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan for Vernon Hargreaves. The young cornerback will need to step up in a big way for the Buccaneers in 2019.
The former Florida Gator was a unique specimen in college but his game has yet to translate into the NFL. Injuries and struggles on the field can attribute to that but this season he will need to have his best season in his young career.
During his rookie season, Hargreaves was able to start in all 16 games at cornerback. In those 16 games, Hargreaves brought in one interception and totaled 76 tackles. It was gratifying to see Hargreaves continue his ability to play the run well in the NFL.
As for his coverage skills, he seemed tentative in coverage and struggled to consistently make plays in the air. Therefore, teams would target Hargreaves and would have success doing so.
In 2016, the Buccaneers ranked 22nd against the pass and Hargreaves was one of the reasons why the defense disappointed. Although, he was a rookie and showed his potential in becoming a talented corner in the NFL.
The following season, Hargreaves slotted into a starting role once again. This time, he started in seven games for Tampa Bay before pulling his hamstring in Week 9. As a result, Hargreaves would be placed on injured reserve and his second season was cut short.
The injury to Hargreaves left the Buccaneers thin at the cornerback position. Thus, Tampa Bay was ranked dead last in the NFL against the pass in 2017. After watching his team struggle after he went down with an injury, Hargreaves was itching to get back on the field in 2018.
To begin 2018, Hargreaves was having himself a decent game against the New Orleans Saints in Week 1. The talented cornerback had seven tackles and a forced fumble on the day. Then, the injury plague would strike again with Hargreaves suffering a torn labrum in his shoulder.
The injury to his shoulder would force him to miss the rest of the 2018 season. Another injury would cost Hargreaves meaningful playing time and an opportunity to show his improved game.
Everywhere you go, people always say “the best ability is availability” when it comes to football. It is one of the most common cliches in football or any sport. And for Hargreaves, he hasn’t been able to remain on the field.
Luckily, Tampa Bay decided to pick up Hargreaves fifth-year option this offseason—despite his injury woes. Bruce Arians is taking a risk in doing so but Hargreaves will need to take advantage of the opportunity he’s been given.
The Buccaneers cornerback has said that he feels healthy this offseason and is excited to get to work in Todd Bowles defense. Those words should come as positive news for Buccaneers fans. Although, it’s tough to trust Hargreaves health moving forward.
The 2019 season is a crucial season for the Buccaneers but one player who needs to have a spectacular campaign is Hargreaves. First, he’ll need to remain healthy to have a chance to perform well on the field.
If Hargreaves plans on remaining with the Buccaneers long-term, he’ll need to have the best season of his career in 2019. The cornerback market is continuing to rise so a bounce-back season could amount to a hefty payday down the road.
The Buccaneers top cornerback has a chance to make his name be known by making some noise in his fourth season in the NFL. Again, the talent is there but his health has caused Hargreaves to miss plenty of time.
Again, in college, Hargreaves was an elite cornerback prospect. At Florida, Hargreaves had 121 tackles, 10 interceptions, and 27 pass deflections in three seasons. With this in mind, the Buccaneers are hoping he can return to that level of play for them in the NFL.
Tampa Bay is going to need Hargreaves to play at a near-elite level for their defense to click. Stopping the pass has been hard for the Buccaneers to do but with Hargreaves on the field, things could be different.
If Hargreaves remains healthy in 2019, don’t be surprised when he performs at a high-level in the Buccaneers defense. In 2020, we could be talking about Hargreaves as one of the best young cornerbacks that the NFL has to offer.