Cornerback Battles: Vernon Hargreaves vs Carlton Davis vs MJ Stewart vs Ryan Smith
The Buccaneers secondary was a mess last season. Brent Grimes was the lone bright spot but he is going to be 35-years-old this season. There is serious concern on the outside for Tampa and they need a young player to burst onto the scene desperately.
Vernon Hargreaves was supposed to be “the guy” but hasn’t improved since being drafted. His play at nickel corner last seasonwas a nice development and it might be best for his career to remain in the slot. His ability to play close and tight against his man, instead of playing a soft zone on the outside, suits him better and could turn him into the team’s next Ronde Barber.
M.J. Stewart, from the University of North Carolina, may not be the best M.J. to come out of UNC, but he’s no slouch. His ability to play press coverage, along with his speed and tackling ability makes him the biggest competition with Hargreaves at the nickel corner spot.
Many people projected him to be a safety coming out of the Draft, and he still might be, but right now the Bucs have linked him to be a corner.
While he is hasn’t picked off many passes, he did have 41 pass deflections in his UNC career. He’s proven he can get to the ball but he just isn’t making the catch. The Bucs need corners and he can play every position so his versatility can get him on the field a lot.
Carlton Davis was the other corner taken in the second round by the Bucs. Davis has one thing all other Buccaneers corners don’t, and that is being over six feet tall. The height of the corners for the Bucs definitely hasn’t helped over the past few years where guys like Julio Jones and Michael Thomas were able to take over the game. Playing them twice a year almost forced Tampa to address the situation.
Davis was considered a steal from many analysts and could be an impact player right away. Like Stewart, he is more known for his pass breakups than interceptions but his physical play is something that can impress defensive coordinator Mike Smith.
Ryan Smith was a fourth-round pick three years ago and while he was mainly on special teams his rookie year, he was forced into a starting role last season.
He recorded a lot of tackles for a corner, with 62, but that is mainly from him giving up catches. He is a nice piece and definitely worthy of a special team spot but he was targeted often last season. Unless he flipped a switch and fixed a lot of his issues, he is unlikely to see a lot of snaps with all the additions at the position.