Things are looking up for the Buccaneers coming out of the bye. They were staring down the barrel of a 1-4 start with the defending NFC champions looming. A Monday Night win later and things seem a bit more rosy.
But it hasn’t been perfect, we know this.
We hoped the secondary was going to be better and it hasn’t been. The Bucs have allowed a 60% completion percentage and 99.5 passer rating. Overall, the team is ranked 19th in pass defense.
It has been more of the same in 2016 as it was in 2015.
So far through six games, the Bucs have managed three interceptions. If we think back to the preseason, our young draft pick Vernon Hargreaves managed two in one game.
Well, the “Eye in the Sky” has been looking at some tape on Hargreaves, and feels the Bucs need to let him be aggressive. Let’s go to the report, where he compares his coverage from the preseason to now.
As always, all screenshots courtesy of NFL Gamepass (subscription required).
Remember this play, Bucs’ fans? This was Hargreaves’ second interception in week two of the preseason. Chad Henne attempted a long bomb to wide receiver Bryan Walters, but look who was stride for stride.
Hargreaves was man to man with Walters, and although he was off of the line, he didn’t wait for deep help. Keith Tandy was late, but that’s not the point. Vernon was aggressive on his guy, and he arguably had better position than the receiver.
Let’s fast forward to the game against the Panthers, and look at our first play.
The first play comes from early in the second quarter. The Panthers are lined up in the shotgun, with Greg Olsen wide to the left in the blue circle. They are in a stacked formation, so Hargreaves is off of the line, in the red circle.
At the snap, Olsen is going to make a quick move to the inside and find a whole at about the 25 yard line. Instead of challenging him and maybe getting aggressive, they have Hargreaves playing scared of the deep ball. He gives him a ton of room as we will see in the next picture.
Hargreaves steps up to make the tackle. He clearly is a solid tackler as he doesn’t miss, but that’s not the point. He is allowing too much room. It’s OK to shade deep, but this guy can make plays on the football. Let him get physical, it will pay off.
Now we move to our second play, which took place later on in the same drive, just minutes later.
Fast forward to just a few lays later. This time, Anderson is lined up under center with two backs behind him in the “I” formation. In the large circle is our focus matchup, Hargreaves vs. Kelvin Benjamin. Safety Chris Conte is in the smaller circle.
The Bucs appear to be in “Cover 2 Man Under”. In other words, the cornerbacks have man to man coverage underneath and to the sidelines, while the safeties have deep middle responsibility. Benjamin makes a move to the post, and then breaks back to the corner.
Again, notice the gap Hargreaves is allowing. Let’s watch as we roll it forward.
Take a look here as we have come just a few seconds off of the snap. Again, Hargreaves is completely in a back pedal, giving Benjamin all kinds of room. Giving him five yards of space provides no challenge on the short pass. There is five yards between Benjamin and any defender.
Here, Benjamin has made his move to the inside, towards Conte. Do you notice how Hargreaves’ back is to us, and we can fully see the #28 on his back? He has committed to the inside move, assuming he is Conte’s problem now.
Now, Benjamin has broken back to the sidelines towards VHIII territory. Now look at Hargreaves, specifically at his feet. See how he is leaning towards his back foot? He is so committed to compensating deep, he is leaning the wrong way. He has no chance to come back to Benjamin on any type of short pattern
By the time Hargreaves and Conte can get there, Benjamin has made the catch and picked up 15 yards.
Especially on this one, we see where the team is holding Hargreaves back. As a rookie, he doesn’t know the league like the staff does. They should be telling him how Benjamin isn’t a deep threat. He is a possession guy, similar to his teammate Mike Evans. In 2014, Benjamin averaged 13.8 yards per catch.
This is not a guy that is going over the top on you very often. With his vast size disadvantage, the only way Vernon is going to have a chance against a guy like Benjamin, he must press. He must get his hands on him and disrupt his route.
It’s how a smaller corner can make up for his size.