Tampa Bay Buccaneers rookie cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III had two interceptions in a 27-21 preseason win against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Saturday night.
Albeit not a regular-season game, both interceptions were the first for the former Florida star at the NFL level.
The first interception came late in the first half on a pass from Jaguars backup Chad Henne. Hargreaves leapt in the air to make the catch and returned it 27 yards to the Jaguars’ 19, which set up a 27-yard field goal that gave the Buccaneers a 17-14 lead going into the half.
“I was just trying to make a play. That’s all it was,” Hargreaves said after the game. “Sticking to my keys, reading the quarterback. At the end of the day, you have to make a play.”
On the second interception, which came three plays into the second half, Hargreaves cut underneath on another Henne pass.
“It was a basic post route,” Hargreaves said. “The ball was in the air and I have to make a play. It’s not that complicated. It’s fairly simple. At the end of the day, I have to make a play.”
Bucs coach Dirk Koetter also was asked about Hargreaves’ interceptions after the game.
“Yeah, those were two really nice catches,” Koetter said. “No. 1, his athleticism to make those two catches. … You have to be thrilled for Vernon to get as many picks in one preseason game as we did all last year with our corners. I thought our DBs really did a nice job against a couple good quarterbacks.”
Hargreaves was selected by Tampa Bay in the first round of this year’s NFL Draft. He was the third corner selected in this year’s draft behind Florida State’s Jalen Ramsey, who was selected fifth overall by the Jaguars, and Ohio State’s Eli Apple, who was selected one pick ahead of Hargreaves at No. 10 by the New York Giants.
Despite going in the first round, Tampa Bay hasn’t immediately thrust the rookie Hargreaves into a starting role. He has since around the first week of August, though, been running with the Bucs’ starting defense at the nickel corner position.
On Saturday night, Hargreaves made both interceptions from the slot corner position.
Hargreaves was asked after the game about how it felt to get his hands on the ball in an NFL game.
“It felt good. I was trying to be patient,” Hargreaves said. “Eventually if I stuck to what I know and kept playing hard I would get one. Today, was a good day for me.”
In three seasons at Florida from 2013-15, Hargreaves was a two-time first-team All-American and three-time first-team All-SEC selection. He had 10 career interceptions with the school.
Johnthan Banks, a former Bucs second-round pick from Mississippi State who could be fighting for his roster spot, also had an interception in the game.
(You can follow Tony Smith on Twitter @1010xlfattony)
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