Buccaneers: 2017 End of Year Player Awards for Tampa Bay
Most Improved Player – Defense: Cornerback, Vernon Hargreaves III
It’s not easy finding a Buccaneers defender who made marked improvement in 2017, but cornerback Vernon Hargreaves comes the closest.
The second year corner struggled mightily throughout his rookie season, and those struggles carried over into the beginning of the 2017 NFL Season.
Tampa’s defense, and Hargreaves in particular, was shredded to pieces throughout much of the first six weeks, by quarterbacks like Case Keenum, Eli Manning, Carson Palmer, and Tom Brady.
In week seven against the Buffalo Bills, Mike Smith decided to try playing Hargreaves as a full-time nickel cornerback, covering slot receivers and tight ends.
The former Gator responded by not allowing a single catch. It was no routine task either, given that Buffalo’s best receiver, Jordan Matthews, played exclusively in the slot.
In the following week against Carolina, Hargreaves was bumped back to boundary corner because of injuries, and he strung together a second consecutive strong game, only allowing two catches.
Unfortunately, two weeks later he was placed on season ending injured reserve with a bum hamstring.
It’s tough to say how much he truly improved as he was unable to return, but those two games showed that with some confidence and aggressiveness, Hargreaves could turn into the player the Buccaneers were hoping for when they drafted him in 2016.